If You Had Thirty Seconds to Speak to the World . . .

Several weeks ago a friend of mine posed this question.  “If you had thirty seconds to speak to the world, what would you say?”  I’ve pondered this question a lot over the last few weeks.  Especially with all of the current events that are taking place.

When you turn on the daily news, pick up a paper, check out Facebook . . . you are exposed to current events.  Unfortunately, most of those current events are disturbing.

I don’t know why but the things that stick out the most, the things that are most titillating are negative.  Each topic we are presented with, from the political situation in this country to ISIS, from Russia and China to gun control, from sexual preference to religious rights, the news items that we are being inundated with all appear to be spun from a negative perspective.

Even when good people on two sides of an issue are debating a point, the debate seems to spiral into negativity.  Name calling and inability to compromise seem to be the calling cards of today’s society.

So when my friend posed the simple question, “If I had 30 seconds to talk to the world”, my first inclination was “Be a great parent.”   You see I am a firm believer that society is a reflection of the family.  Society is based on the family and on the principles that children learn from their earliest teachers . . . their parents.

Parents teach children how to behave, how to share, how to get along, how to care for others.  Children learn this from an early age.  When parents do their job well, children learn how to get along and merge into society.  My first thought was if everyone focused on being great parents, we would begin to influence the society of 2040.  We would be laying the building blocks that will perhaps turn around the anger and animosity with which the world appears to be so encumbered.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that being a great parent isn’t enough.  You see each culture has a different idea of what parenting provides.  So instead of just being a great parent, I would modify my message to be a great parent and teach your children how to love.

We need more love in the world, love that listens, love that cares, love that provides, love that compromises.  It seems that the issues that are constantly pushed in our faces all stem from someone who did not experience love; from the disturbed shooter, to those who shout and scream their displeasure with one another under placards.  If we truly focused on loving one another perhaps many of the issues we face today would subside.  So my message began to change . . . from “Be a great parent” to “Teach your children to love . . . openly, freely, and without pause.”

But as I penned this post I realized something.  Children innately know how to love.  They love naturally, they know love and feel love in the womb, they know and feel love from their earliest breath.  Small children smile and laugh and give the best hugs, because they know how to love.  It is only through adults that they learn mistrust, animosity, anger, hatred.  We teach them how to survive in society by being suspicious of others.

So as I close, my message has changed again.  If I had 30 seconds to speak to the world, I would say, “Be great parents, learn to love from your children and show that love to those you meet, even the ones with whom you disagree.”  You see, 2040 is almost a generation away.  What we need is the ability to influence the society of 2016.

Perhaps if everyone in the world heard that message and carried it out, we would all smile and laugh and give the best hugs, because we have learned from our children the best lesson of all . . . Love.

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On Life

This week there has been yet another uproar between pro choice and pro life camps.   Division at its worst.  So in reflection, I asked myself why I consider myself to be pro life.

For years people have been debating the science, the religion, the economics.  The woman’s right to her body.  Whether or not the baby should have rights.   It is easy to get wrapped up in all of that, but the older I get the more I realize that’s really not the point of all of this.  At least not for me.

Digging deeper into my own thoughts something surprisingly simple keeps resonating.

You see the reason I am prolife is that in my deepest being I am a Dad.   And being a Dad first, I believe that every child deserves to feel love.

I think of those babies, warm and cozy knowing nothing of this world, of politics, of debates.  In blissfully pure innocence one second, and the only experience they will ever have is being attacked in the one place that they should be the safest.

Every one of those babies deserve the chance to feel love at least once.

For me, being pro life is about being pro love.   Love is good, and real good should never hurt.   Anyone.

No one will ever convince me that abortion is good.  It is not good for the babies.  It is not good for the Moms and Dads that not only suffer the grief of a loss, but too often suffer the guilt of enabling the death of their child.  It is not good for those performing the abortion.  They know what is occurring, yet they grow insensitive to the pain they induce.  They hide it by getting others to condone the practice.

It is not good for society.   You can see that in watching two sides beat each other up rather than work together to end the conditions which foster such inhumanity.

Love does not beget pain, it does not beget grief, it does not beget guilt, it does not beget division, it does not beget strife.

Our scientists can only hypothesize what a baby can feel and when, but no one really knows.   But everyone knows that human beings are worthy of being loved and feeling love.

It is senseless that only a few centimeters of tissue is what separates a legal abortion versus a heinous crime.  The inconsistency says that we are becoming too legalistic, which leads me back to my earliest point.

It’s not law, it’s not theology, it’s not science, it’s not morals.   I believe that every human deserves to feel love at least once in their life.  No matter how long or short.   No matter the conditions of their conception, no matter their race, creed, color.  No matter their health or deformity.   No matter their intellect or sexual orientation.

When I see the two sides in this debate yelling at each other, I see evil at work.   Thoughtful people on both sides of the issue pointing fingers at each other.  I’ve done it myself.

The fact is, if we look at each other as fellow humans deserving of love, maybe we will start listening to each other.

Maybe if we work to love those babies.  Maybe if we work to love away the grieving and the guilt.  Maybe if we start teaching our young men and women not to shirk their responsibilities but to embrace them, maybe then we can work together to end the evil and divisiveness that has attacked our society.

I am an expectant grandfather.   I cherish the opportunity to relive the infancy of my own children. I look forward to cuddling a newborn grandson, and I shudder to think of any child that isn’t given the opportunity to be loved, even if it is just for a few short moments.

I believe every human is worthy of being loved at least once in their life.

And I call that belief Being a Dad.

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Love First, Rules Next

For each of my kids, there is one special mental picture that I can always return to. With my son, it was the day that we brought him home from the hospital. He was born about eight PM on a Sunday night. The hospital was of course ready to get us out as soon as they had counted all of the fingers and toes. We took him home the next day and by the time we got him home, both my wife and I were just wore out. I helped her get comfortable to take a nap, picked up my son, and laid him right in the middle of my chest. She napped, he napped, and I was the proudest Daddy that ever walked the face of the earth! This was a bonding experience that I will remember until the day I die.

The ability of a Dad to bond with his child is one of the greatest gifts of our generation. For centuries, all of the bonding happened between Mom and the child. Mom feeds, Mom bathes, Mom rocks, burps, changes – it was all about mother / child bonding. For a Dad to be able to actively participate in the rearing and care of an infant is one of the true joys in life.

In my view, you really aren’t a Dad until you’ve experienced the three P’s. You have to be peed on, puked on and pooped on to be a Dad. If you haven’t had all three . . . repeatedly . . . you are not close enough and frankly you probably aren’t giving your wife enough help. The closer you are to your children in each phase of your child’s life, the more they know that you love them.

Once you have built that bond, the child pays attention to you. Once he pays attention to you, he’ll listen to you and you’ll be able to influence the child and guide the child with love.

The love that you develop with a child needs to be continually reinforced. They need to hear that they are loved; they need to see that they are loved; they need to feel that they are loved. A child needs to be loved by both parents and a child needs to see that his parents love each other. A friend told me that he was a really good kid, until his parents separated. After that, he didn’t feel it was necessary to pay attention to the rules because his parents didn’t live up to the rules either. You know . . . the one about “Till death do us part.”

Children start out by emulating the environment within which they were raised. If it is a positive, loving environment, then the odds are they will try to repeat that. If it is a negative environment, they will have learned the bad and will not have a positive reference from which to grow. To turn out right, he will have to overcome the bad environment, a tough challenge for anyone, especially someone without a positive role model.

Another point on love, a child’s psyche doesn’t know, unless it is continually reinforced. Their minds are not mature enough to rationalize that they are loved the way that an adult can. My daughter tells us that every time my wife and I had a squabble, my daughter worried that we were about to get a divorce. Now, my wife and I had our spats but it never crossed our minds that we would ever divorce. Our fights were just run of the mill things that were never any jeopardy to our marriage. Unfortunately, our daughter did not share that understanding. She did not realize that two people could love each other and still have disagreements or squabbles. Her knowledge of love was still incomplete.

First and foremost, throughout a child’s life, they need to feel love and see love acted out. If a child is loved and knows it, he will go out of his way to return that love. Humans are just built that way. But at some point, (like as soon as they can move) you are going to have to introduce rules (primarily for their safety). The reason for rules is to teach and protect the child. If a child knows that the reason for the rules is to protect him, he is a lot more likely to follow them.

When a child follows the rule, they need to be praised; when they break the rule, they need to suffer the consequence. Positive and negative reinforcement is how we learn. But a child always needs to know that they are still loved, even when being punished. If a child ever thinks that because they have broken the rules, they are no longer loved, you have just lost. Discipline alone won’t cut it. The only reason for a child to want to follow the rules is to please a loving parent. Without love, a parent is nothing more than a rulebook attached to a vending machine.

Here is one last train of thought about love. Several years ago, my wife and I read a book, I will unabashedly plug. It was called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The pretext of the book is that humans by their nature share and receive love via one of five primary “love languages.” Some people like gifts, others words of love, some crave time together, others need caring gestures, and some respond best to physical touch.

The book was written for couples to heighten the awareness of love language between spouses. Basically, if a husband wants to communicate that he loves his wife, he needs to figure out what her love language is and communicate his love to her in the language she understands. If he communicates in HIS language, he may be sending the signal, but she isn’t receiving the message the way she needs to hear it. It is kind of like him speaking English, but her only understanding Spanish. He may think he’s communicating his love, but she just may not comprehend.

The reason for going through this explanation is simple. Kids are people too. If you really want to let a kid know that you love them, figure out their love language and talk to them in THEIR language. Some kids crave time, others kind words, some need gifts, others need lots of hugs. The point is . . . find out what your kids need to let them know you love them, and pull a Nike . . . just do it!

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Being A Dad

A few months ago, I was in a men’s group at church, and the speaker was talking about what it means to be a Father. He quoted from the creation story in Genesis and summarized it like this. The first thing God did for man was to bring him into creation. The second thing God did was to try to bring man joy. This is what being a real Father or “Dad” is all about. Create life first; then, try to bring your children joy. Biologically speaking, through the gift of the father and the receptiveness of the mother, a new child is created. After that, a real Dad will spend his entire life trying to bring joy to his children.

This is the model that we are called to emulate as Dads. It is as simple as that and every good Dad, regardless of the culture, does their best to follow that pattern. Now a lot of you may be calling for the BS card but I want to explain further. No real Dad ever wants ill for his children.

A child may look at the rules and think, “Dad’s rules sure don’t make me very happy! There ain’t no joy in them rules!” But the fact is that children do not have the wisdom to set the rules nor do they have the experience to know what is safe and what isn’t. Everyone goes through this. It is just part of our nature.

My siblings used to get upset about my Dad’s rules. We all thought that our old man was over the top on rules and that we were held to a tighter set of restrictions than “everybody else.” My Dad’s philosophy was pretty much, “If you live under my roof, then you live by my rules.” To my siblings (and most kids) this seemed “totally unfair.” To me, it seemed pretty straightforward and logical.

Dad once told me a story from in the 1930’s, when his family horse went lame. He and his brother were strapped to the plow and had to pull the plow in order to get the crop sowed. It wasn’t out of animosity from his old man. It was out of necessity. So getting back to Dad’s rules, I kind of looked at them from a different perspective. My Dad never made me pull a plow so I figured that the rest of Dad’s rules weren’t too bad. Looking back, I realize that every rule that I had either taught me how to survive or helped to keep me safe and out of trouble. I didn’t know it at the time but Dad’s rules were there because he loved me.

You can look at the Ten Commandments the same way. Now a lot of you may be thinking, “There he goes, getting all religious on us,” but let me explain. If you think about it, the Ten Commandments are pretty solid rules that allow mankind to run a society. They set boundary conditions that we operate within. We are free to operate within the boundaries and no one gets hurt, as long as everyone plays by the rules.

It is no different than football or baseball. Someone sets the rules so everyone can play and enjoy the game. The Ten Commandments are just the rules for the game of life. If everyone lives by the rules then we can all play and have a good time. The fact is, that pretty much every society accepts and follows the same rules, and the only time that there are issues is when people or countries break the rules. The rules are there for our own good. By following the rules and living our lives within them, we are taught how to live lives with Joy. For the believer, God planted the seeds of these rules in the human psyche, because He loves us. For the non-believer, we evolved to acknowledge the same set of rules out of our survival instinct. In either case, we pretty much all agree that the same set of rules apply for the game of life.

In a household, one of the things that Moms and Dads have to do is provide the rules. As long as the kids abide by the rules, they can live their lives with joy. When the rules get broken, well, there just ain’t as much joy.

One of the biggest issues that we have in society today is that no one wants to play by the rules. We think that freedom is all about doing whatever we want. Well, that is just wrong headed. Freedom is not about doing whatever we want. It is doing what we want as long as it doesn’t break the rules of society. Every law that is written has the limitations that your freedom cannot impede the freedom of another individual.

And oh by the way, just because an act is legal does not mean it is the right thing to do. When you perform an act that hurts another person, regardless of legality, it breaks the rules. You can’t go around hurting other people. We seem to have this uncanny ability as humans to come up with new and creative ways to hurt each other. Then we say, “Well, there’s no law against it.” The next thing you know we have to pay Congress to write a new law, because some clown never learned the Ten Commandments from his Dad.

One other point on this, and it doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Jew, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist or anything in between. If you know the basic rules of society, then you stand a pretty good chance of getting along. If you claim to be a Judeo-Christian, then you better know and follow all Ten. If you are not religious, just learn the last eight and pass them along to your kids. These rules are a good start to learning everything you need to know about living a life full of joy. And by the way, the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) is a good summary of the Ten Commandments, and is accepted by pretty much every culture as well.

So with all due respect to my Christian Brothers and Sisters, and the countless men and women who have translated the Ten Commandments from Hebrew, to Greek, to Latin, to English, I have taken the liberty of translating the Ten Commandments yet again, but this time, into MANSPEAK.

 

I’m God; I made you, worship me and nothing else,

Give me one day a week to honor the fact that I made you,

Don’t swear,

Honor those with authority over you,

Don’t hurt or kill others,

Don’t mess around sexually,

Don’t lie,

Don’t steal,

Don’t lust for your neighbor’s wife,

Don’t lust for your neighbor’s goods.

 

That’s it, all Ten. They are called Commandments for a reason . . . when we play by these rules, we all get along, and we are free to live in the joy that we desire.

When we break the rules, joy flies out the window, our lives turn to a mess and eventually society breaks down. It is a historical pattern. Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, French, Spanish, English . . . every Empire since the dawn of history has fallen, because they didn’t play by this set of rules. If you don’t believe me . . . ask the Romans. Case closed!

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It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!

If you read the book of Genesis, the very first commandment that God ever gave to man was, “Go forth, be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth.” This very first statement sets up, not only our role but also the priority of what we are supposed to do.

Notice: God did not say, “Go find a job, build a career, buy a bunch of expensive toys and when you are financially able, go have 2.1 kids per household.” God did not say, “I will only send you kids when you want them and oh, by the way, if you get pregnant and you aren’t happy about it, just reverse the call and kill the baby. It is just a collection of cell tissue until it miraculously pops out.”

With the command to go forth and multiply, He basically says, go start your family. Get your job, trust in Him and He will help take care of things. Here is an astonishing fact; people have pretty much followed God’s first command for 100,000 years and have done pretty well.

It is just in the last 60 years or so that we figured out “The Pill,” legalized abortion and that “Miller time first and family last” is what life is all about. Over the last 60 years, we have collectively put job, career, cool toys, a bank account, housing and everything else ahead of family. And oh, by the way, as a result of this new and improved mindset; divorce is up, single parent families are up, abortion has skyrocketed, drug use is rampant, STD’s are up, mental illness is up . . . you get the picture. When we started putting family life last, we screwed up society.

Here’s an alert for you. Who is going to keep the economy going if there aren’t young people to backfill the retirees? Hint, hint, either the population implodes and there aren’t enough folks to keep an economy going or there is a huge economic vacuum and it is backfilled by immigrants.

Here’s another alert. Demographers have noted that based on the current birthrates, Europe and China are each about to undergo population implosions, on the order of 40 to 50% population shrinkage over the next 40 years. How’s that gonna work for their economic systems?

Another interesting fact is that the only thing growing the American population right now is the influx of immigrants. So what does that mean for the U.S.? It is the same song, just a different verse. If it weren’t for the opportunity to succeed in America, drawing immigrants from all over the world, we would be doomed to the same fate as Europe. This is the legacy that we have left our children. Now you might say, “No problem, the U.S. has always been a melting pot.” My answer is, “Yes, it has and the pot is about to melt all over again.”

Is this really a problem? Well, on an historic scale, probably not. Migration has always been there, cultures have grown, morphed and died; but there is another level to consider. With each family having, on average, around two kids, that means that if you are lucky, you may have one son. If he goes on to father a boy, maybe your family lives on for another generation.

In my case, my grandfather’s family name died with his generation. No male heirs. Out of my personal family, there were five kids, I was the only one to have children and of our three kids, there is only one boy. So my son is the only one able to extend my family name. Either he has a son or my family name dies with his generation. This pattern is repeating itself all across America.

Now, you may not think much about it when you are 35 and just thinking of settling down. But, when you are 60 and there ain’t no more kids coming, you will be wondering how your legacy will live on. If you haven’t noticed, there are very few men whose names are remembered three weeks after they are gone (like, maybe Elvis). The only thing that provides a real legacy is our children and their children. Without them, there is no legacy. This is just a little something to think about while doing your family planning.

Now does that mean you have to have a litter of kids? No, it doesn’t. It just means make sure that you aren’t putting more emphasis on the economics than is due. Have a little faith that if you happen to be blessed with kids, God will also help you to provide for them.  He took care of our ancestors for 100,000 years. If you ask, He’ll probably take care of you too!

 

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Philosophy

One of the most eventful conversations that I ever had was on my very first date with my wife. In fact, it wasn’t really even a date. She and her folks had come to my hometown and had stopped by to visit my parents, as they had been friends for years. At the time, my wife and I had not seen each other since we were infants, but I thought it would be a great idea for me to show her around town (especially since she was so cute.)

To make a long story short, we sat on the front porch of her sister’s house talking till the wee hours of the night. We spoke about everything! In particular, we talked about the type of marriage each of us wanted to have. We talked about the way we wanted to raise our kids. Now, having this sort of an in-depth conversation on the first night we had ever met probably seems a little over the top. But for us, on that night, it was just a natural conversation.

We were able to share our philosophies and what was so unusual is that our philosophies aligned. What became even more important is, once we knew we were right for each other, we were willing to live out those philosophies in the way our children were raised and the way we lived our lives.

Gentlemen, you did not father that child by yourselves. It takes two to make a child and it takes two to rear one. The only way to be successful in raising a child is when you and Mommy share the same philosophy.

Family life is tough. Living with a number of people that depend upon your decision-making, your ability to earn an income, your consistency and discipline is challenging in the best of times. If you and Mommy do not agree philosophically on just about everything, you are in deep trouble. The two of you have to be aligned. You cannot be debating with each other when there are kids watching the outcome.

The day you first marry will be a life-changing event, as the two of you now have to work as a team. When that first little one comes, you will have to tag team just to keep up with that squirming little ball of energy and poop and it will stress you to the max. When number two comes, you have to learn man-to-man coverage. This is still pretty stressful, but manageable if you are working with the same philosophy. By the time number three or four come along, you have to play zone defense. You had better understand the positions, because they outnumber you and you can lose the game.

The two of you have to be aligned on everything from the number of kids to the manner in which they are disciplined and from the way you budget to the way that you will share family time. Listen up . . . you are not the ruler of the family; you are an equal and complementary partner to your wife. The two of you have to agree on which decisions belong to Mom, which ones belong to Dad and which ones are joint decisions.

Debating this within earshot of the kids is not a good idea. They WILL divide and conquer and they WILL use one of you against the other. I don’t know where this “deviousness” comes from, but it is there and they use it masterfully from a very early age. The point is, when you see a division in opinion coming, call time out, get with your wife, discuss the next play and then get back in the game.

In my opinion, the best time to get philosophically aligned is before you ever become engaged. If you can’t get aligned philosophically, you probably aren’t the right fit, so move on. The next best time to align is before you start having kids. This gives you a chance to get things aligned before the battle joins. But for gosh sakes, as a worst case, take the time to talk and get on the same page before the kids are old enough to eavesdrop and know how to use divisions against you!

Once you have learned how to talk and align . . . keep it up.  As the kids grow, they will continuously come up with new and challenging offenses. You and your wife have to stay a step ahead or they will run amok. If you and your wife can’t control a two year old, then you don’t stand a chance when the little booger picker is a teenager.

When the two of you came together and created them, you signed up for the responsibility to raise them, as well. Make sure that you get aligned on a philosophy that gives you the best chance to succeed and gives your child the best chance to become a happy and productive adult.

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Why I Wrote the Book

First of all, I am not the perfect Dad. I have screwed up countless times. And, if you don’t believe that, just ask my wife and kids. But, I do consider myself to be a better than average Dad. As I mentioned earlier, I have three kids that have turned out to be successful, competent, happy individuals. Fortunately, all of my kids hope to have their own families.

My wife and I have done all we can to impart some wisdom to our children. They have learned through the way we have raised them and from the countless conversations about our philosophy. We have passed on the things we have learned from our parents, the things that have worked and the things that haven’t worked.

We now have the opportunity to share parenting tips with our daughter-in-law and son-in-law. They are each the products of their own families and come with their own parenting philosophies. But the common denominator is that all of our children want to improve on the things that they have learned.

If you think about it, evolution occurs in pretty much everything. You can see it in the patterns in nature and you can see it in the behavioral pattern of people. I am a firm believer that each generation of parents really tries to do it a little better than the generation before.

So the first reason that I am wrote the book is as a gift to my children and grandchildren. My children have always been willing to learn from others and I am hoping that I can impart a little more wisdom, so they can do it better for their kids than I did for them.

I guess it is a little bit of the theory of evolution. Each generation tries to improve on the last. My folks tried to do a better job than theirs and I am trying to do a better job than my folks did. I have heard so many times, “Too bad there isn’t an owner’s manual that comes with your first kid!” I guess that this is a start on that owner’s manual. From a Dad’s perspective, I want to give my children an edge on some things they can learn.

The second reason I am wrote the book is there are so many young men out there who are fathering children that have absolutely no clue what they are doing. It is not necessarily their fault; they just haven’t had good role models from which to learn.

There aren’t any classes called “Being a Dad.” Many of these young men haven’t had a good Dad to teach them. They are not prepared with what to do, how to do it or what they should be doing. We teach them about sex education, but not how to positively deal with the consequences. And, we definitely do not teach them how to MAN UP and be a real Dad! This book is for them. I am hoping that some small percentage will pick up this book, read it and learn from it. Maybe a few will give it to their friends, or their brothers.

Finally, I wrote the book for the unsung heroes, the rank and file of the great Dads out there. The guys who are doing it right, who love their kids and raise them the right way, the ones who sacrifice their lives and their energy to provide for their families. The Dads who coach, teach and mentor their own kids and the children of others. The Dads who cradle the newborn and bury the son that has gone to war, because of what his Dad has taught him.

Somehow, the good Dads out there have to spread the wealth. We have to help the next generation succeed. As I said before, “My generation screwed up,” so my generation needs to help solve the problem. This is my small part. Maybe this book will spawn a new generation of Dads. Maybe it will just help one guy be a better Dad. If this book helps one Dad then it is worth every minute. If this book is just a gift to my own family, then it is worth every minute as well.

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Working Through The Crisis

 

When I was ten years old, my older brother was killed in Vietnam. This was a crisis for my family that my parents were not prepared to deal with. So, as most parents did back then, they just had to muddle through. They did the best that they knew to do. This was before the time of support groups and Google searches. They struggled with pain and guilt. They asked why God would allow this terrible thing to happen. Each of them dealt with it in their own way and my siblings and I each dealt with it alone, as well. Our family was affected terribly as a result of this tragedy and there are still after-effects today.

The point of this chapter is to realize that crises are going to happen. They happen to everyone. Pain is a part of life, whether it is a death in the family or a terrible illness, the loss of job or a divorce, an assault on a family member or a child coming out of the closet. These sorts of events can and do happen to every family. And, in every family, it is up to Mom and Dad to lead them through the tough times.

The first thing to remember, in times of crisis, is that you are not alone. You are the head of a family. As such, you have to keep the family in mind. When my brother was killed, my Dad’s reaction was private and to himself. We never knew what he was thinking, nor were we ever able to see his emotions. The problem with this approach was that he never acknowledged the turmoil to the rest of the family. By his own solitude, he put the family in a mode of dealing with the loss as individuals.

As a Dad, you have to recognize that your family needs you. They obviously will depend on you for your strength but they also need you to be human. They need to see a healthy way of dealing with the stress and the pain. They need to see a positive example of how to deal with a bad situation.

When bad things happen, people often ask, “How can a good God allow such terrible things to occur?” The only answer that I have ever heard that makes sense is, “so a greater good can come about.” Essentially, bad things occur, but you can enable good to grow out of them. When you see someone with cancer, it is a terrible tragedy. But, when you see the outpouring of love and affection that takes place and the lives that are changed, good often occurs as well. If you recall what happened across the nation after 9/11; the outpouring of love, of patriotism, of community helped the entire nation to deal with the tragedy of that terrible day.

It is not possible to prevent bad things from happening. All that we can do is handle the bad things in a positive manner. We can either allow the bad to destroy our family or we can figure out ways to enable something positive. There are countless stories of how parents have taken the tragedy of a lost or injured child and turned it into something good. When times are tough, just realize that your family is looking to you to set things straight.

Life is not about preventing all of the bad things from occurring. That is just not possible. All that we can control is how we deal with good or bad when it happens. It is possible to take a seemingly good event (like a new job or promotion) and turn it into something terrible for the family (like Dad spending way too much time on the job, eventually putting pressure on the family.)

It is also possible to take a bad event and turn it into something positive, like the mother that founded MADD after her child was killed in an auto accident. The fact is that life is about playing the cards that you are dealt. By focusing on how you can turn any situation into something positive, with love and affection, you are preparing your child to reap the best out of life.

I have often been amazed at how children cope with illness. My little nephew has a condition that makes him susceptible to broken bones.  He is required to undergo treatments once a quarter that are painful and make him ill. As a tiny child, he just weathers the treatment and the pain, and moves on with life. He doesn’t see himself differently than other kids and is the happiest, sweetest little boy you would ever imagine!

His innocence and loving nature make him a role model, not only for other children, but for Dads as well. If a little child can take on such a difficult situation with such grace and peace, then this is a model that Dads can learn from and emulate. Your family is looking to you for strength and emotional support. Grace and peace in the face of difficult situations is a wonderful model for your kids!

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Disclaimer – We Screwed Up

Disclaimer, We Screwed Up

For every successive generation, since about 1200 AD, each generation has been able to better the last. In this country, at least, every generation since we were founded has been able to surpass the last in standard of living and economic improvement.

My parents and grandparents saw the introduction of electricity, running water and extensive human flight.  In the span of my grandfather’s lifetime, we went from farming via horse drawn plow to landing men on the moon.

My parent’s generation, called “the Greatest Generation”, tried to give their children all of the benefits they could. My generation is the first, for many families, where a college education was the norm rather than a privilege of the few. My generation has seen the explosion of the information age and an economic boom like none other in world history.

In spite of these economic and social advancements, when it comes to our family life, the results are startlingly disquieting. Our birth rate is less than replenishment. Nearly 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. There have been over 50 million babies aborted in this nation alone since 1974. Schools can no longer discipline kids and kids are out of control. There is a rampant drug problem, and STD’s have hit the highest level since the introduction of penicillin.

So what went wrong? Well guys . . . We screwed up. In my opinion, my generation took advantage of all the things our parents tried to do for us and blew it. We turned into a huge bunch of spoiled brats. We wanted it “Our Way,” and if it didn’t suit us then we protested. In other words, “I’ll just pick up my toys and go home.” What is worse is that this is the mentality we have passed on to our children!

We have failed to instill the discipline of respect, of hard work, of playing by the rules and of living with the consequences of the decisions that we make. We teach kids that everyone gets a trophy if they contributed or not. We teach kids that if they whine about it long enough Mommy and Daddy will cave in and they can have what they want. We teach kids that just like on the computer game, if you fail to reach the next level, just hit restart and the game starts all over again.

The problem is that this isn’t how life works. If we don’t prepare our kids to work, to respect, to play by the rules, they are going to have their butts handed to them when it comes to life. They are going to be out-hustled by every new wave of immigrants that come to this nation. They are going to fall by the wayside and end up wondering why they can’t find anything more meaningful to do than flip burgers, while their peers from India, Asia, Latin America, Africa and Persia, work circles around them. If you don’t think it’s true, here are a couple of anecdotal data points.

A few years ago I was having lunch with two co-workers who happened to be from India. Raj held two advanced degrees, worked 80 hours per week for a Fortune 500 company, was a self- taught expert in a number of fields, owned several personal businesses, all of which were very successful. In short, he was one of the most brilliant hard-working people I have ever met. Sri was a very good industrial engineer, (better than average according to American standards) was married, lived debt free and was a good “American level “ worker.

While at lunch, I asked each of them to explain why they came to this country. Raj said that he had had a falling out with his family and he had come to America because of the freedom to succeed. Raj explained how he was taking advantage of all of the opportunities that such a great country offered.

Sri expressed, “Look, we both know Raj and how exceptional he is.” “Realistically, we both know that I do not possess his skills, his intellect or his drive, but I do consider myself a very good industrial engineer. In America, I compete very well against American workers. I can raise a family, make a good income and do well here.” He continued, “In America, I do not fear the competition because here, I only have one Raj to compete against and the rest are just typical Americans. But in India, I cannot compete. Rather than one Raj per company, there are hundreds of guys like Raj, and I would be competing against all of them for every job out there!”

Here is one more story to bring the point home. A few years ago, I was asked to speak at a Masters in Industrial Engineering Program at Texas A&M University. I was surprised that, out of a class of about a hundred very bright students, there was only one student who was a native-born American! Every other student in the class was from another country, attending a top flight American university, learning from the best professors in the world, and working their tails off to get ahead. And there was ONE NATIVE- BORN AMERICAN OUT OF ONE HUNDRED STUDENTS!

Guys, here’s the deal; my generation screwed up. We focused on everything but the family and now our children are not prepared to compete in the marketplace as it looms ahead. We had it our way and now our kids are unprepared to raise families with the right level of respect, work ethic and drive. The fact is that there are literally billions of very capable people from all over this planet that can get a visa, hop on a plane and be here with a totally different mindset and skill-set. That fact has the potential of putting American children in the passenger seat.

On the watch of my generation, we collectively failed the family test. In the meantime, the world has gotten a lot smaller, a lot more competitive and our sons and daughters have their backs up against a wall whether they realize it or not. And what’s worse is that we haven’t left them a legacy of how to teach their own kids the right way to build that fundamental building block of society.

Boys, the world is changing. In a global world, our kids have to compete against the best. Our family structure is the foundation that raises successful kids. And right now, a large number of our families are in disrepair. As men, we have to get back to shouldering our responsibility for our families or our kids and grandkids will suffer the consequences. It’s just that simple.

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MANSPEAK

Manspeak

To set the tone of these blog posts, I am not about to pull any punches. Frankly, we are too politically correct, and as a result, we aren’t getting the full effect of the wisdom from the past. So, I am going to write the book just like men need to hear it. There will be some funny stuff, (at least to me), some stories and some serious stuff. There will be a little religion. This will be written just like guys need to hear it. It will be up front and to the point. A little like the talk on a weekend with the boys.

To begin with, let’s put the cards on the table.  For the better part of the last 50 years, men have been mocked as a bunch of losers. Look at the men on TV. Men are most often portrayed as idiots, effeminate, crooks, sex fiends or some combination thereof. Even the good guys are only successful when they beat up or kill someone else.

Men that used to be role models have been chastened for impurity, sports figures have gone from guys like Palmer to characters like Tiger. Politicians pull stunts that most guys could never get away with and society just looks the other way.

The economics of “we want it all right now,” have made it nearly impossible to raise a family on a single income. As a result, both parents are working and the kids are often on the loose. Fathers regularly promote abortion or father a child, then leave. They marry one woman, divorce, marry another and so on. Many fathers abdicate their responsibility to the Mom, the school or the police. This is a rampant problem, not just in America but worldwide.

To quote a famous philosopher, Pogo, “We have found the enemy and he is us.” Guys, we are screwing things up, and the only way for this to get turned around is for us to MAN UP and start to shoulder our responsibilities as Dads. I use the term Dad, because any moron can father a child, but it takes a Dad to raise one. This book is all about keys to being a Dad.

We are the best-educated people that the world has ever known. Yet in the one area that is most important, collectively, we stink. Look at it like this; when you build a structure, everyone knows that you build a solid foundation, then frame up the walls, put a roof on it, then fill in the details and build it out for comfort.

If you look at how humanity has evolved, it started with the family as the foundation, next came the tribe, the locality, the nation and finally the world-wide system. But, the foundational element is the family. The family is the basic building block of society. If the family is weak, then society will be weak. Well boys, if you look around you, every data point out there shows that the family is weak. The divorce rate, the abortion rate, the birth rate, the infidelity rate are all problematic.

Even the definition of the family itself is being changed. C’mon guys, be reasonable. If the family didn’t consist of a male and a female, we wouldn’t even exist. REPRODUCTION CAN’T OCCUR WITHOUT A MAN AND A WOMAN! Just because we can redefine, doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.

Now I know I just bent a lot of folks out of shape, but this is what I mean by man-speak. We have to get it on the table, rationalize where we are and move forward if we are going to do the job we are called to do as men. Now I promise that I am not going to be bashing people throughout this book, but I am going to raise issues that need to be addressed. You have to decide if you want to hear it and whether or not you are going to do something with it.

As I said earlier, I am not worried about political correctness, this topic is just too important. The fundamental structure of humanity is in a terrible state of disrepair, but all you hear about on the news is the economy, or politics, or Wall Street or war. Very few talk about the state of the family. Trying to resolve these other issues without strengthening the family is like re-spackling the walls without addressing a cracked foundation. It might look ok for a while, but the next crack that shows up will be a lot worse and eventually the house will just crumble.

One more thing on man-speak: for good Dads, everything you read in this blog will seem like common sense. This blog will be more like a summary or a refresher to what you are doing well. A lot about being a Dad is just using good old common sense. Well boys, the problem is that common sense ain’t so common anymore. This blog is about sharing things that some men take for granted but that other men may see as enlightening. As you read through these pointers and tips, just ask yourself, ”Does this make sense?” If it does, then follow it. It is a simple recipe for being a successful Dad.

Guys, the fundamental family structure is in terrible shape. If we don’t MAN UP and fix it, our society is in deep trouble. This blog is all about helping other men shore up the foundations of our families.

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