Parenting Series: Improving Your Relationship with Your Son (Part 1 of 4)

By contributing writer, Joshua Kissee

Worry not about the high cost of building men…but be concerned about the high cost of failing to do so. Texas Prison Museum Wall Poster

worry not about the cost imageSo you’ve heard a hundred New Year’s resolutions available.  I even recently posted an article on ManBuilders.com  about Making a Commitment Pledge to Your Son. Your time is one of the most valuable things you can give to your son.

That’s great and motivational, but now what?

The mission of ManBuilders.com is to provide practical articles aiding parents & those with the responsibility of raising boys with the tools they need.

In this first of four part series on improving the relationship with your son, I’ll focus on reviewing your current schedule, looking for gaps/weaknesses, and getting organizing in preparation for strategic scheduling with your son.

In 2013, I’m planning on releasing the first book in a series providing practical guidance, real activities, skills, lessons, events, and ideas that can be used on your son’s journey in becoming a man. To get started, we are providing the framework that you apply right now with your son as you build him into a man.

Approach this as if you were completing a project or reaching a goal. How do you get there? Is it one big leap or many small advances?

Most often, it’s the little things we repeatedly do that builds up our son(s).

The Law of Proactive Scheduling will be your best friend and has been the single greatest secret in my tool chest for scoring victories with my sons. Here is the secret: Don’t just make the time, plan the time. Put it on the calendar and commit to doing it!

Tip 1: Review Your Current Schedule and Look for Gaps & Weaknesses

Do you have a schedule? Maybe you have not been this organized. I wasn’t and that’s okay. The irony is that I’m very organized in the workplace and often serve as a project manager leading a variety of information technology projects. I know what it takes to be organized when I wear my workplace hat. However, my Strategic Father hat was not nearly as organized and it needed to be.

Think about your recurring commitments in a month and ask yourself these questions:

  1. What does my work schedule normally look like? (e.g. Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  2. What nights /days do I have commitments that I have to or really should attend? (e.g. Sports games, sports practices, community service, church, date nights, etc)
  3. What nights / days do I have commitments that I like to attend, but could drop if needed? (e.g. Hanging out with a friend,  thirsty Thursday, adult softball league, etc)
  4. When do I like to rest and unwind? (e.g. Sunday afternoons, Tuesday nights, etc)

After you have reviewed your schedule, look for areas where you have free time. If you have very little free time, think about what you could drop that is not benefiting the relationship with your son. Perhaps you’ve been MP900444333selfish in a certain area of your life. Replacing that selfish activity with quality time with your son is an investment that will pay long-term dividends.

Tip 2: Be Real

Seriously, be real. Let me explain.

You are not superman or superwoman. There are only so many hours in the day. When I attempt to find time slots that I could spend with my son and place them too close to work or other activities that keep me busy, I am more stressed because things happen and time runs over. Sometimes:

  • Youre are late coming home from work
  • You’ve spent too long at the store
  • Your son has poor behavior and requires a lot of time correcting him
  • You are just plain tired from doing something else. Period.

So be real. Don’t write down potential time slots as “free time” if they are stacked too close to other activities that might cause you to stress, be late, or otherwise let down your son. I have let down each of my five sons more than once and it’s a terrible feeling. Sometimes, things just happen and you can’t help it. Write down free time that has a good chance of really happening.

Take Action:

  • Low-tech. Buy a cheap, 22 x 17 inch calendar. The at-a-glance calendar is a great option and can be found for under $5 on Amazon.com. I recommend this calendar because the days have lines that you can write in easily.  It’s quick to use, cheap, and easy to come buy. No matter where you are in the world, this will work. No internet connection required.
  • Medium-tech. Use a calendar service such as Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, or Mozilla Sunbird. The Google Calendar and Mozilla Sunbird applications are free, web-based utilities that live in the cloud. Microsoft Outlook must be purchased, but can also be installed on your Mac, PC, tablet, or smart phone.
  • High-tech. If you have an Apple iPad or Android-based tablet, consider using a good calendar app. There are truly hundreds to choose from. However, my recommendation is to use the built-in calendar feature and synchronize this with your Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook calendar. You can read Michael Hyatt’s How to Setup Google Calendar on Your iPhone as a quick and easy resource to get configured. This way you have both mobile and pc/mac access to your calendar with reminders if needed. A great article on using high-tech means to keep your life in sync is found on the Time Management Ninja website, titled 12 Apps to Keep Your Life in Sync and is worth a review.

In our next post, we will review the second in our four-part series, The Power of a One-on-One. The article will be filled with a variety of ideas you can start using immediately when spending your newly scheduled time with your son.

How do you find time in your schedule to meet with your son? Any tips to share with the community?

Josh Kissee

Joshua Kissee is a husband and father of five sons.  He writes at www.manbuilders.com

Father Hunger Book Review: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families

I work with many young men and women who have absentee fathers.  Some don’t know who their fathers are.  Some have fathers in jail.  Some have fathers who prioritize their “new” family.  And some have fathers who just don’t come around.  The following book review by Josh Kissee (www.manbuilders.com) shares two spectrum of fathers – those who are absent, and those who desire to be present.

Book Review of Father Hunger  Josh Kissee 

Sitting in your chair browsing the internet, eyes firmly affixed to the screen, you hear the sound of rushing water. The sound has a low, yet ominous rumble that raises caution in your heart. You turn to look in the direction where you hear it growing louder, louder, then suddenly, a splash! Cold water pours into your face as you suddenly feel the weight of an ocean atop your shoulders.  A wake-up call.

In the book, Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families (Thomas Nelson, 2012), author and theologian Douglas Wilson leads men on a journey providing a compelling wake-up call with frightening statistics and implications for the phenomenon of absentee fathers on a grand macroeconomic scale. father hunger book cover image

Are you:

  • Curious what the “be a better dad ” talk is all about?
  • Wanting to know how to improve your relationship with your children?
  • looking for a motivational or lite read on the topic of fatherhood?

If you are, then don’t read Father Hunger.

If you are specifically looking to be challenged, convicted of your mistakes as a father with biblical facts, and shown the long-term economic and political consequences of missing the mark as a father, then Father Hunger is a read for you.

Father Hunger is a survey of sorts.  Douglas Wilson uses an artist’s brush to paint wide-strokes highlighting the underlying causes of the current father crisis in America.  The book lacks specific, practical and firm examples of how to break free of negative fatherhood cycles.  However, there are statistics and scriptural verses that force fathers to reflect where they stand on specific topics from a father’s perspective.  These topics include vocation, gender roles (masculinity versus femininity), politics, family discipline, and the economic value of the family. One of the core arguments of the book is that fathers are asleep at the wheel of family leadership while our culture is changing toward a model that doesn’t allow fathers to lead as he was designed by God, thus placing him in the backseat of a runaway car.  The book advocates that a man must pick up his responsibility for the family and, in doing so, becomes a pillar within society.

Fathers are important and create a molecular backbone to society.  When men are responsible, sober, hard-working, self-restrained members of local communities, this creates pockets of personal responsibility the state does not control.   When a man is serious about responsibility, he finds himself living as a pillar  in the family, the church, and the community.

Father Hunger argues that the family, especially the role of father,  is under attack in America.  Television depicts men as “bumbling idiots” or “sex crazed” to the exclusion of every other thing in their life.  Men are portrayed as TV watchers with back-talking kids with video game controllers in hand, getting sex only if they are lucky.  Father Hunger displays these images as common media deceptions, revealing them as attacks on fatherhood in order to get a quick laugh and make a buck.  The current media campaign against the family, primarily the father, is one of the strongest themes in the book.

There are golden nuggets in the book that are challenging.  Wilson writes about fathers who are prideful and demean their children.  For example, a young son acts up in public and embarrasses his father. The father knows there is a problem but he makes excuses for his son’s behavior.   He doesn’t actually address the problem, but tries to smooth over awkward situations for himself.  He doesn’t help his son.  The problem is rooted in his own pride.

Examples like this are common experiences most fathers have felt.  It’s easy to walk away and ignore problems with children, making excuses for them rather than dealing directly with the cause.  There’s a poignant statement, “Men don’t carry things because they happen to have broad shoulders. They have broad shoulders because God created them to carry things”.  This is one of the most profound and positive ideas addressing family problems.

Men need motivation, encouragement, integrity, and consistency.  They need positive influence from their wife, support from other men, and a grounded heart that lovingly desires to lead their children as part of their journey through fatherhood.  For men looking for these principles,  Raising a Modern Day Knight, by Robert Lewis would be a better book to pick up.   This book will provide powerful examples, encouragement, and general guidelines for building a relationship with your son.

But if you are sold on the need for being a biblical father and are looking for a sober splash of water, then read Father Hunger and drink in it’s bold, strong message.

While fathers should be financial providers, he also should provide examples of Christ-likeness, resisting attempts of Corporate America to press him into its mold (Romans 12:1-1).  He should see Christ in his clients and customers, laboring in such a way that would not embarrass him if summoned to do work for a King.  In reality, he is working for the a King (Colossians 3:22)

If you know  the importance of your role as a Father, then save time reading Father Hunger.  Take your son or daughter for a special one-on-one time with Dad instead.  But if you are looking for the challenge of present-day fatherhood in America, this might be a read for you.

You Don’t Understand. A Teenager.

We stood there, our voices rising.

“You’re not listening to what I’m saying” I said, exasperated.

“You just don’t understand!”

These rants went back and forth like a ping pong ball.

I do understand. If only you’d hear me. 

A conversation between a parent and teenager.

These scenes flashed through my mind as I audibly heard Psalm 116:1 this morning,

“I love the Lord, for He heard my voice.”

What a poignant statement from David.  He heard me.

I wonder how often communication with God is like the scene above.  This conversation played out for years between my firstborn and I.   Most times, I understood what Firstborn was saying.  But the adolescent mind of not-thinking-parents-know-anything kicked in fast and furious at thirteen and didn’t stop.  Just about every conversation included a faulty communication.   We said things to one another without hearing each other .  False assumptions and expectations were road blocks.  How could I let her know that I understood her, that I was on her side? That I heard her?

God has a sense of humor placing teenagers in our lives to make us understand Him better.  David’s simple statement that God heard him reminds me that faulty assumptions, expectations, and different perspectives aren’t just barriers between parent and child.  They can become barriers in our communication with God.  Like teenagers, how often do we think God doesn’t hear or understand our situation?  In response, do we become obstinate, argumentative, losing faith that He knows what is best for us?

Unfortunately, I can’t compare myself to a gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love God-Parent (Psalm 103:8) in how I handled the faulty communication in our home.  While I thought I understood my child and had good intentions for her, I failed at communicating in gracious, compassionate, slow-to-anger ways.  Thank goodness our Lord is not that way.

When we don’t feel like God hears us or we don’t see immediate answers, we are assured, like David,

He does hears us.

If we seek to listen, understand and trust His goodness for us, we can rest in what He’s doing, even though we don’t  see His perspective or wisdom in the moment.

I wonder what we’d discover about God if we took time to trust His wisdom, understanding He knows us better than we know ourselves (Psalm 139), and that He’s on our side.

Hind site is always 20/20.  Fortunately for the other teens in our home, I’ve learned from the mistakes of broken communication.  I’ve learned my Firstborn did listen during those years.   I’m learning to be more gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.  Now when a teen says, “You don’t understand!” I can listen with grace and better understanding.

Perhaps, like David, they’ll even feel heard.

I’m thankful God isn’t a first-time parent with us.

 When we don’t think He hears, He is patient.

 When we tell Him he’s screwing up our lives, He is gracious.

When we tell Him we’re done with Him, He is slow to anger.

When we don’t trust Him for our future, He is abounding in love.

When our rant ends and we realize He is on our side, we can also say,

I love you, Lord, for you heard my voice.

Because you have turned an ear to me,

I will call on you as long as I live. Psalm 116:1-2

Where do you need the Lord to hear you today?  

Holy and righteous Father, thank you that do not fail like earthly parents.  Thank you that you know us, love us, are gracious and compassionate with us.   Thank you that you hear our every cry, our  every question, our wrestling and our cares.  Thank you for not turning us away when we come to you frustration, angst, even anger.   Thank you for not turning a deaf ear to us.  Thank you for hearing our voice.