The Important Things a Dad Does Wearing The Superman Cape

I was cleaning when Harold the Helicopter caught my eye.  Harold’s been sitting on my husband’s dresser for years.  It’s IMAG1166the spot where he keeps his important things, a sacred place I don’t usually disturb.

Dad can fix anything” was what my son said years ago when Harold first broke and he asked his dad to fix it. I remember telling Junior that Harold would be hard to fix. He emphatically reminded me that Dad Can Fix Anything.

So he gave Harold to his dad, who placed the toy on his dresser, among his important things to take care of. That was at least five years ago.

Poor Harold.  I don’t think he’s going to be fixed. 

At least he’s safe sitting on Dad’s shelf among The Important Things.

There are other things on my husband’s dresser along with Harold, a testimony to the honest faith my children have had that their Dad can fix anything.

Tractor wheels, rockets, Barbie toys, Star Wars figures, and Harold.

Time has gone quickly since Harold arrived among The Important Things.  Junior forgot about him. He transitioned from Thomas the Tank Engine to Star Wars and now to ESPN. 

So here Harold sits, but his presence isn’t forgotten.

It’s a testimony to the Power of Dad in the life of a child.Businessman Wearing Cape

To a child, their dad is a hero whether he wants to be or not, wearing an invisible cape only children can see.

As a counselor, I often hear kids say, “I don’t have a dad.” What they’re really saying is, “My dad isn’t a part of my world.” He’s absent, not present, or even known. But the child still yearns for his presence.

In their eyes, Dad’s presence, or lack of it, is immeasurably powerful.

As our kids have gotten older, I still hear, “Dad can fix it.” I’m often tempted to tell my older-and-wiser children their dad really can’t fix a lot of things. But I hesitate, knowing their hero with the cape will at least attempt to fix it, even though he may not succeed.

For his kids, the process itself is powerful. To them, it says, “Somehow, my Dad will take care of me.  If he’s not able to fix what’s broken, the effort itself will be bookmarked among “The Important Things” in life.

Just like Harold.

How do you let your children know you care about what is important to them? Perhaps it’s not fixing a toy, but how do you let them know what is important to them is important to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Father’s Day, Superman.

 

Parenting Series: 101 Summer Boredom Busters for Boys

By contributing writer Josh Kissee of Manbuilders.com.

summer boredom busters for boysThe cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. -Dorothy Parker

Are you dreading your boys asking to play video games, watch TV, or sit at the computer when they get bored this summer?

I am. They do it now and it’s not even summer yet!

Solution: Have a list at the ready of boredom busters that do not need you to shell out a ton of cash, feel the guilt of putting your boys on screen-time autopilot, and continue to build the curiosity bound up in their heart!

Prime the Curiosity Pump

Spend 15 minutes with your son(s) and talk to them about curiosity and get them excited and renewed in their interest of things outside of games! If you are unsure where to start, consider using the steps below to guide your discussion.

1. Ask your son(s) if he knows what curiosity means.

2. Give him a few different definitions of curiosity. Consider reading “Sam I Am” by Dr. Seuss.

3. Discuss how “distractions” keep our curiosity from being fulfilled through exploring the world.

4. Explain to your son(s) that you will be posting a lot of new and exciting things to help him become curious about the world this summer.


101 Summer Boredom Busters List

  1. Plant a small flower garden from seeds. Be sure to water everyday!
  2. Make two different paper airplane models. Have a flying contest to see which plane model/whose plane can fly the farthest, straightest, or most unusual. If you have an Apple iPad or iPhone, checkout this FREE App on how-to make paper airplane models.
  3. Make a paper mache’ solar system and hang the project from your bedroom ceiling when finished. Spend an evening under the stars with your son and try to find some of the planets.
  4. Make a costume and act out the parts. Ideas could include a pirate, soldier, construction worker, scientist, or doctor.
  5. Create an emergency plan in case of fire and do a real drill.
  6. Play with Play Dough (Outside). Older boys can have a play dough war!
  7. Sing Songs.
  8. Exercise. Checkout the Subway fitness program for exercise ideas.
  9. Watch educational shows (e.g., animal planet, discovery)
  10. Write a letter to a family member.
  11. Mystery topic (cut up 20 pieces of paper with a topic, put in a bowl, and then have your son research it and talk about it. Monitor his internet usage!)
  12. Draw Pictures and Practice Art Techniques. Google or youtube search for Bob Ross (former PBS guy who drew amazing mountains and other scenic pictures).
  13. Create a Diarama
  14. Search for bugs in the yard and collect into a jar.
  15. Visit the library and get books to read together.
  16. Visit a museum.
  17. Go for a walk or search and destroy mission outside.
  18. Conduct a science experiment. Lots of ideas at Steve Spangler Science.
  19. Build with legos or blocks.
  20. Cook a new recipe for a sweet treat.
  21. Go fishing.
  22. Go swimming.
  23. Play a board game.
  24. Play tent in the living room.
  25. Take a bubble bath and relax.
  26. Make a bird feeder. Free DIY plans at Ana White’s website.
  27. Have a picnic.
  28. Play at the park.
  29. Go on a nature walk in a wooded park or by a lake. Skip some stones or throw rocks and have a contest while you are there.
  30. Have a water balloon fight.
  31. Build a volcano.
  32. Play hide and seek.
  33. Play basketball.
  34. Play baseball.
  35. Play soccer.
  36. Do a scavenger hunt.
  37. Shoot the BB gun.
  38. Call a family member and tell them you love them.
  39. Play cards.
  40. Go to the movies.
  41. Take pictures and act like a photographer.
  42. Fly a kite.
  43. Go to a pizza restaurant, like Chuck E Cheese. Get some coupons first!
  44. Dress up in a costume and act out your favorite movie.
  45. Do some woodwork.
  46. Work with tools.
  47. Learn how to change a tire or do maintenance on the lawn mower.
  48. Learn about parts of a car and especially the engine. Learn how to check the fluids.
  49. Play sword fight.
  50. Go on a mystery drive, where you the boys say which streets to turn on.
  51. Have a talent show.
  52. Build a time capsule and bury in the back yard.
  53. Have a video game competition.
  54. Have a Limbo contest
  55. Look at the stars at night and make wishes about the future.
  56. Wrestle.
  57. Draw with sidewalk chalk outside.
  58. Look for shapes in the clouds and tell stories.
  59. Use the grill to make smores.
  60. Play twister.
  61. Play charades.
  62. Watch the sunset together.
  63. Plan out a dinner menu that is crazy!
  64. Trace your hand onto paper and color
  65. Look at family pictures and talk about the memories.
  66. Make bubbles.
  67. Silly string fight.
  68. Jump rope contest.
  69. Have a lesson the guitar or piano.
  70. Think about how to redecorate your room.
  71. Learn about a specific animal.
  72. Play frisbee.
  73. Throw a party and invite some friends over.
  74. Go bowling.
  75. Play 20 questions.
  76. Have an Olympic festival where you compete in a variety of sports.
  77. Play iSpy.
  78. Have a hotwheel race.
  79. Play penny poker.
  80. Learn 100 signs in American Sign Language.
  81. Fix something that is broke.
  82. Sleep outside in a tent.
  83. Write down bad habits onto paper, build a fire, and throw it into the fire with a desire to change the bad habit.
  84. Go bicycle riding.
  85. Make holiday crafts in anticipation of the holidays.
  86. Go play laser tag.
  87. Play hot potato.
  88. Play name that tune.
  89. Play finish that story. Each person makes up a sentence and the next person has to keep the story going with another sentence. Do this for 10 rounds among all the players.
  90. Play with face paint and dress up like warriors.
  91. Play with hulk hands and have a boxing match.
  92. Make a pinata.
  93. Make a cardboard robot.
  94. Have a watergun fight.
  95. Watch a baseball game.
  96. Play Dominoes.
  97. Build a dirt castle.
  98. Go to the zoo.
  99. Do crazy Karoke.
  100. Build a cardboard castle.

101.Organize a magic show.

Print the 101 Summer Boredom Busters List and place it on a wall that your son(s) pass by often in your home. Challenge your son(s) and yourself to do one third to half of them this summer!

Keep the list going. Add more summer ideas in the comments below or share links to help some of the ideas come alive!

 

 

Saying Good-bye and the Power of the Mundane

photo flowersI’m sitting on my porch swing taking in the day I hope will never end.  The sun is on its way down to slip behind the trees in an hour or two.  The flowers are bright around me and a breeze is on my cheek.  The birds are singing,  the cattle are walking to a cool place for shade.  Another Sunday gone, another week comes to an end. So predictable yet so different. 
                            This week my oldest son is graduating.  Up until now things have been routine.  Days have been predictable like every season we’ve walked through.  Today as he shared in church, he reminisced on things that have influenced him…...Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, the support he and his classmates have received in being part of a faith community.
                          “Being in a small town, there’s accountability. Because if you mess up, everyone knows,” he said.  A doubled edged-sword in ways.  My son declared it instrumental in helping him make choices growing up.  There’s value in everyone knowing your name.
                            Today’s not quite the same as I sit on my front porch rocking to the low bellows of the hungry cows.  In the routine of photo (87)life, somewhere my boy became a man. A man who has surrounded himself with friends who hold him accountable.  A man who has chosen to love God not because we said so, but because he has learned of His grace, faithfulness, and unconditional love.  A man who began walking out of my life years ago as I realized I needed to release him to be the leader God has called Him to be.
This week we will celebrate, say good-bye, and let go.
                                 Every mother releasing her son knows its different than releasing a daughter. Somewhere along the way your role changes as you step aside to let him grow and figure out who he is.  There are times to step back so he can develop strength.  Times where you have to be strong and push him into the storm so he can figure out how to survive, all the while watching with a life raft ready at a moment’s notice.  Times where you must step back and let his father instruct and discipline.  Times where you still touch his cheek with a kiss because he is still a little boy inside a man-size body.  Times where the best words are, “I’m proud of you.”
                               This boy has been a big brother, his sister’s best friend, and a son who has held me accountable when my actions or words did not match what I believed. He has been the voice of reason when needed.  In the ordinary and routine moments, he has grown into a man who is ready for the next step.
                        I believe raising kids for moments like these lie in the mundane and routine, in the moments we live when we think no one is watching.  One thing this child and I know how to do is forgive, trust, and give second chances. Important moments for us have included the words, ” Will you forgive me?”
                               I have two more boys to raise in mundane moments.  Six years from now, sitting on my porch swing, I will be saying good-bye to my last knight in the household.  I’m reminded to not rush these days on or to close my eyes to what is ahead.  Each child God gives us is one to be fully seen and known.  They are kings and queens in the making, not for our glory, but for His.
                        I’ll shed lots of tears this week along with other moms and dads celebrating the milestone of graduation.  I’m thankful for each tear of joy, sorrow, and sadness along the way.  Each one a part of the process of releasing a child to fly, lead, and grow.
                        Don’t miss the moments each day.  Let the wind blow on your cheek as the sun slips beyond the horizon. Read a book, sing a song.  Let your boy dazzle you with his charm or your girl snuggle in your arms. Shed a tear, laugh out love, and kiss a cheek.
 photo (86)
And let the mundane and routine bring blessing when the last goodbye is said.

The Parenting Series:The Simple Question and the Not-So-Easy-Answer

Last week my son came to me with a simple question.

Mom, are you busy?”MP900438778

I groaned inside because I knew the answer.  The right answer was “No. ” The wrong answer, which was inside my head, said “I really don’t want to stop what I’m doing.”

Luckily, my mouth came up with the right answer.

“No, what do you need?”

Would you play this with me?”  I looked in the hand of my sixth-grader.  He was holding a home-made board game on Carnegie he made for a school assignment.

“Sure” I said, though I silently rebelled.

Playing games is on my most-despised-mom-duty-list.

We sat on our living room floor that Saturday afternoon and in ten minutes, we successfully completed the game while learning about the life of Carnegie.  My son was happy, with a wide, content smile when we were done.  He resumed doing whatever he does in the Man-Cave with his brothers, and I returned to things a blogging/working mom does on Saturdays.

I felt guilty for being selfish with my time, but I knew ten minutes playing the Carnegie game was the most important use of my time for the week.  I cherished the time in my heart because there aren’t too many times when kids ask if I’m “not busy” these days in a house of teenage boys.   I thought back to days, not too long ago, when I was too busy for just about everything.  When the need came to spend unscheduled time with a child, I used to calculate in my head the cost of putting them off or stopping and engaging with them.   My heart usually overruled my head, resulting in precious, irreplaceable time with my kids.

A bedtime storyAs my son walked away, I longed for more time to spend with each my kids…..time snuggled in a rocking chair with three of them in my lap reading Mike Mulligan and the Steamshovel or singing “Trust and Obey.”  My heart yearned for my daughter to bring me cups of tea she imaginably made or for my sons to pour seed corn in my lap while they “unloaded the bins” with toy John Deere tractors.  Even now, the tears fall from my cheeks as I ponder these things in my heart.  I’m thankful I gave the right answer to the monumental question, “Are you busy?”

A friend and I were recently talking about many moms that seem to struggle with being content with where they are with little ones under their feet.  I remember being there.  I remember wondering if I’d ever have a thought or moment of my own or if I would ever have time where there wasn’t someone demanding my energy and time.

Now, when the rare moment comes when a child asks or calls, “Mom, are you busy?,”  I rush at the chance to be fully present with my not-so-little-little-ones. 

If I could say one word to young, harried, stretched-to-the-limit moms, it would be to seek God’s peace and contentment in the season you are in.  While the world might seem to be passing you by, it’s not.  And even if it is, your children will pass by even faster.  Once they are self-sufficient and their world revolves around their peers, you will long for just a wisp of their presence and a five-minute conversation to hear their voice.  You will yearn for time with them where you can be fully present.

God granted me ten minutes to learn about Carnegie and also affirm the time and effort my son put into his project.  We talked about other things in the process, and his fill for Mom-time was done.   But later that night, when the other two boys were in bed, I opened their doors, sat beside them in the dark, and asked if I could pray with them.

They said “Sure,” so I put my hand on their strong, manly-arms and prayed while they laid in the beds next to the picture of their girlfriends on the nightstand.   I took a chance, leaned over to kiss their heads, and felt my heart flutter as they said, “Good –night Mom” as I walked out the door.

Ten minutes was all it took, but my heart was filled as I hope was theirs.

Because our kids – whether two, twelve, or twenty, need us to be fully theirs for a few moments in time.

Dear Lord, thank you for each moment you give us.  Thank you for the seasons and stages we have with our children.  Please equip each of us as moms to stop, look, and listen to our children. Help us to not be busy when we need to be present with them.  Stretch our time, soften our hearts, and let us see our kids as you do.  Thank you for the moments you give us – help us not to miss the most important opportunities be you to our kids.

Where do you need to give one of your kids just ten minutes of your time?

Parenting Series: How To Build Respect with Boys

Written By Rebecca Kissee

 Rebecca and her husband, Josh Kissee have authored a new e-book “Bringing Up Boys Of Virtue”  that can be purchased from Amazon.  Check it out now for a reasonable price.  A book review I’ve written is also posted here.

Luke 6:31 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (NIV)

One of the loudest ways to reach your son is through respect. The old adage “treat others the way you want to be treated” applies here.

As a mother of 5 boys, I often find myself correcting my sons when they are being disrespectful or too wild.  (Mothers of boys should be able to relate to the wild part!) After the 5th time of correction in as many minutes, I catch myself becoming disrespectful back to them. Phrases such as “How many times do I have to tell you?” or “At this age I expect Disrespectful boybetter than this!” become the norm. The reply I get back is either a head hung down in defeat or compliance mixed with semi-controlled anger. Neither of which fixes the heart issue with my son. He feels embarrassed and disrespected and I am left feeling frustrated and guilty.

The Solution

In speaking to a wise friend about this issue she offered me some great advice.

Allow your child to come up with a code word for you to use when they are being disrespectful.

Coming to your child and letting him be a part of deciding the code word shows him that his opinion matters and that he is worthy of respect.

The code word can be simple such as “calm down” or can be a true code word/phrase such as “ it looks like rain today.” Other examples could include:

  • Respect please
  • Is something wrong?
  • The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain
  • Purple Tuesday
  • Breaking out in an uninhibited rendition of Aretha Franklin’s ……..”R-E-S-P-E-C-T”

However, let your child be creative and come up with something that will not embarrass him. Rather, this code word should cue him toward the fact that he needs to change the behavior immediately.

One of our children chose to use the Latin word for “be calm”. Using a different language can mask what you are trying to say to outsiders, while still getting the point across to your child.

Tell your son that you will use this word that he has chosen instead of yelling at him or embarrassing him.

The Caveat

He needs to respond in an equally respectful way. When you use your code word he should respond with “yes ma’am” or “thanks for the reminder” or another respectful response.

His responding lets you know that he has heard you and acknowledges the situation and helps build a respectful relationship between you and your son.

Have you tried using a “code word” to address disrespectful behavior in your home? How did your son react?

becca kissee profile pictureRebecca Kissee is the proud Mother of five sons and co-founder of http://www.manbuilders.com. She and her husband, Joshua, enjoy raising their sons Jacob, Jordan, Johnathan, Jonah, and Jared. They believe that boys need to acquire a great variety of skills and character traits on the journey to becoming a man. Joshua and Rebecca enjoy blogging about topics to teach boys and display a new topic each week from over 300 ManBuilding ideas to teach your son. Checkout the family at http://www.manbuilders.com/about/

Parenting Series: The Power of Bragging on Your Son

bragging-on-your-son
(Photo credit to Kifo via Flickr Creative Commons)

By Contributing Author Josh Kissee of Manbuilders.com

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing and thats why we recommend it daily. “- Zig Ziglar

The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions, the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Your son needs you to compliment him in front of people. Even brag about him in front of them. 

Is it your job to “puff him up,” make him happy or “people please” him?

Absolutely not. 

When you brag on your son, he is

  • Affirmed through words as a man in training.
  • Encouraged by the compliment paid.
  • Recognized publicly for doing something of value.
  • Accepted by you.
  • Strengthened in his respect of you.

Before you pull away, lets see how you feel in the following scenario.

A Day at Work

The morning was hectic with a rush of work. Already behind on many tasks, the day seems relentless. Your lunch break is short today, only 15 minutes in length. You are sitting with a co-worker and enjoying being away from your work. A few minutes later, the boss walks in. Frustrated by the fact that she represents the workload you feel burdened with today, she is the last person you want to see.

“I know we are behind on the project and you have been busy today,” she says as you feel frustration and excusing welling up in your heart.

Unexpectedly, she places her hand appropriately on your shoulder and begins to speak.

“Without you this place would not be what it is today. I am very impressed by how much effort you have placed into getting the project completed while prioritizing the rest of your work. You have been amazing this week and I appreciate your leadership”, she says removing her hand from your shoulder with a smile.

Almost sounds too good to be true, right? In most workplaces, it is too good to be true. Managers rarely excel on recognizing their employees in a public setting. Perhaps many managers didn’t get this themselves as children?

You can change this. 

How to Brag on Your Son – Who

The art of bragging on your son in front of others is an affirmation of who he is and what he means to you. Brag on him in front of:

  • Adults who are of good moral character. – Frequent
  • Teachers or Coaches. – Often
  • Your adult friends. – Often
  • His friends. – Sometimes

How to Brag on Your Son – Where

Be mindful of the conditions. When there is an informal setting of people such as the following you have an opportunity waiting in the wings.

  1. Sitting at the dinner table with guests visiting your home.
  2. Eating a meal together with others at a restaurant.
  3. At the park with friends.
  4. Before or after a sporting event in front of his coach.

How to Brag on Your Son – How

Consider using the following phrases. The real truth is that this will just come naturally when the time permits. The important learning lesson is to be mindful that you do it.

  1. Last week, Jacob did a great job on his science studies and has shown some improvement. He is really putting effort into his work.
  2. I can’t believe the way Jordan acted when he missed that ball. Instead of getting embarrassed or angry, he acted with great character and I’m proud of him.
  3. Earlier today, Johnathan told me that he is going to work hard on making his bed consistently. I really appreciate that he takes what I have asked him seriously.
  4. Next week, Jonah will be tested for moving up a belt in Karate. He has been asking me to help him drill and prepare. Jonah is really dedicated and I am proud of him for his planning and perseverance.
  5. Jared is really great at reading. Just yesterday he read a book with me that was 30 pages long in under an hour. He really does well.

The above examples are only a few of the thousands of possible compliments that could be given to your son.  For more ideas, review the Power of Positive Words. The concept presenting in bragging on your son in front of others is applying compliments in front of others in a special way.

How do you brag on your son? Any scenarios that can help the community of parents?

Twice a week, I write for parents of Tweens to Teens at Parents Space, and each Friday I write on motherhood at Not Alone Mom.  Check out these great resources and the other contributors who write there, too.  Thank you, Josh, for sharing here each month!

Parenting Series: Improving the Relationship with Your Son – The Power of Positive Words

by contributing writer Josh Kissee of Manbuilders.com

You have more than got this, and I love you. Be brave!” said the Father to his son just before he stepped into the batters box at the baseball game. He could hear his dad in the background cheering for him as the pressure rushed through his veins and weakness started to overtake his legs. Just then, the young 6-year boy takes a swing at his first slow-pitch baseball game.

“Strike!” said the umpire as he felt even more pressure.positive word image

The next pitch delivers what appeared to be a lightning fast 100 mile per hour ball.

“Strike two!” said the umpire as the boy felt gripped with fear. “You can do this,” said his father in the background. Quipped with momentary bravery, the young boy took a third swing and didn’t even come close to the ball.

“Strike three, you’re out!” The umpire flexed his arms as he motioned the strike symbol. The young, six-year-old boy felt a sense of shame, humiliation, and disappointment all at once. He began telling himself a dozen reasons why he should not continue on playing baseball. Why he didn’t have what it takes. Just then, a voice from behind the dugout between the rusty chain-link fence startled his thoughts and shook him on the inside.

“Son,” said his father.

“You were very brave just then. Those were some fast balls. Just keep being brave and don’t give up. I love you, and I’m very proud of you.”

All feelings of shame, disappointment, and thoughts of failure seemed to flee. The young boy felt an enormous sense of relief that he knew his father believed in him.

They love it. They need it. Its free. 

So this is all well and good. Sounds like I have it all under control. Don’t be mislead. I’m just onto a really good thing that I know works. Everyone knows that if you find something that works, you keep doing it. If you find success, you keep doing the things that make you successful. This is one of those things.

Schedule it and make it happen!

15 Affirming Phrases

  1. You did a great job at…
  2. I believe in you…
  3. Let’s work on it together, so we can bust it out!
  4. I can see you have worked really hard. Thank you!
  5. I’m so glad you are my son.
  6. Son, you are good at…
  7. You used good judgement to solve that problem.
  8. I knew you could do it!
  9. What do you think the problem is?
  10. Let’s try teamwork.
  11. Do you have any ideas on how to solve this?
  12. I understand what you mean. How would you do it then?
  13. Let’s try this again, can you show me your way of doing it?
  14. Would you like to hear my idea?
  15. That might work. Let’s try it and see.

In our next post, we will review the last in our four-part series, The Power of Positive Touch.

What have been the best phrases for remaining positive with your son? Any tips to share with the community?

Parenting Series: Improving Relationships with Your Son (Part 2)

Josh Kisseeby Joshue Kissee (Manbuilders.com)

Author Tim Ferriss blogged about reality distortion field and rarity of giving your full attention to another person.

“We are living in a world where no one, it seems, has attention for anyone or anything for more than a few moments. How rare it is when someone pays attention to us. Consider the wording of the phrase: pay attention. In industrialized nations, at least, attention is becoming almost as scarce a resource as money. Someone who “pays” it to you is giving you something of true value.”

Your son should be rich in attention that you pay.one one one father son

Seriously. My sons love their one-on-one time with Dad. If I taught them nothing {let alone strategically used ManBuilders tools}, the one-on-one seals the knowledge of knowing that you love him. More than any other skill, your love and the quality of your relationship with him is the one that will outlast all others.

You may need some help. My wife has helped me tremendously in keeping me accountable to continue the one-on-ones. With five sons, it’s difficult for me to give each of them one-on-one time per week. I wish it could be done, but there just isn’t enough time. So we make sure each week a different son receives this time. It works out to be roughly one per month, per son. The Law of Proactive scheduling comes into play by posting their schedule on the wall or by letting them know that once a week there is someone who will get a one-on-one.

My sons will tell me when they are close to the month mark from their last one-on-one with me and say “it’s been a while dad” or “we never do one-on-ones” anymore, even though it was just last month. That’s how much they crave it!  It’s not because I’m a superhero. The key is that during our time, no matter what we are doing, my attention is fully glued on them.

They love it.

So all well and good. It sounds like I have it all under control. Don’t be mislead. I’m just onto a really good thing that I know works. Everyone knows that if you find something that works, you keep doing it. If you find success, you keep doing the things that make you successful. This is one of those things.

Schedule it and make it happen!

Now for some ideas. Consider choosing from the list of low-moderate-high cost options for having a great one-on-one with your son. You could also reference any of the ManBuilding Ideas.

One-on-One Ideas

Free One-on-One Ideas

  • Walk to a local park that has a playground
  • Spend time alone with him in his room. Shut the door, play with him, and talk.
  • Play make-believe/pretend with him outside and transform this into hide-and-seek.
  • Have a scavenger hunt for your son’s favorite toy (indoor or outdoor). Give him a reward when you find it!
  • Sing songs together. If you play a musical instrument, let your son join you and sing with you.
  • Explore in a patch of woods near your home. Pretend like you are in search of enemy soldiers or animals that you are hunting.

Cheap One-on-One Ideas (low-cost or transportation required

  • Have a water balloon fight. Nothing else to say here.
  • Paint his face with face paint like a soldier and go on a secret search and destroy mission together at night. Use sticks or dowel rods like guns as you go hunting for the snipe.
  • Draw/color together alone and talk about his pictures
  • Get out some paint and make a mess together
  • MP900202050Go to the park and have a picnic together while playing his favorite sport.
  • Go outside and paint with sidewalk chalk
  • Go to the library and let your son pick out books that HE is interested in. Take them home and spend time reading with just him. Make sure you ask him questions about the stories that open his imagination so you can listen.
  • Go for a bicycle ride in your neighborhood. If you have a bicycle, ride yours. If not, jog around him and get some exercise!
  • Play a board game (no video game). Good games for this age may include Battleship, Shoots and Ladders, CandyLand, and many others. Just look for the age range on the box when selecting the game at the store.
  • Build with Legos together.

Moderate Cost One-on-One Ideas (low to moderate cost and transportation almost certainly required)

  • Take your son swimming, just you two, and focus on him having a good time. Pretend you are in a water war with each other and encourage his imagination.
  • Take your son fishing and don’t expect to fish yourself! This is about his time with you. He will get his line tangled, lose his bait, and require your constant attention. Just plan on doing little fishing yourself and this experience won’t drive you crazy!
  • Take your son on a camping trip overnight. This could be in the backyard, on private land, at a local/State park, or in the living room. The key is to have a tent and sleep in it with him. This is a powerful one-on-one for boys. If you can build and safely maintain a fire, even better!

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

What have been the best one-on-ones with your son? Any tips to share with the community?

Parenting Series: The Middle School Years

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I hate middle school,” a friend recently texted, asking for advice and prayer in a difficult moment.  I knew those moments all too well.  Our kids are three years apart, so we have a revolving door of middle schoolers, one leaving while another is entering.  During these yeas, we hear a lot of:

“Mom, I know.” (Emphasis on KNOW, complete with eye-roll),

“Why does he get to do that? I didn’t get to do that when I was that age.”

“You don’t need to tell me!”

“You don’t understand!”

Navigating middle school is scary for parents and child. Kids are trying to break free, be independent, while everything around them is quickly changing. They’re trying to find their identity. Hormones are raging. Caution signs flash everywhere for good reason.  While they’re pushing you away faster than you want them to, they still need and want you.

As a teacher and counselor, I’ve seen many teens form their identity around unhealthy peer groups or engage in dangerous behavior because the struggle for identity is so great. Navigating your child through this time can be tiring – having one hand on them while also letting go. It’s a fine line, and sometimes you don’t know where the line is.

Young Man GesturingWhen my firstborn went through middle school, a friend told me even though  she was pushing me away, she still needed me. Who would have guessed words of “I hate you” also meant “I need you.”

Hind sight is better than foresight. I’m glad we’ve made it through the middle school years with three out of our four kids.  We’ve learned a lot the hard way. But I can’t vacation yet. Each child is different and knowing what each one needs at various developmental stages is a big job.  It requires knowing a child’s “bents.”  It requires patience and perseverance.  It requires loving them when they are least lovable.

Some things I’ve learned along the middle school journey that have been “tested and proved”:

  • Give teens space when they ask for it. It’s one of the ways they feel heard and understood, even in a heated moment.  It builds parental credibility in the eyes of your middle schooler, and develops trust when they decide to open up to you, on their time.
  • Understand teen words are part of their development.  “You don’t understand” and “You don’t know anything” was offensive to me the first round and I fought against it.  But understanding it’s part of the process of kids figuring out their identity and separating from mom and dad helps in hearing it the second, third and fourth times.
  • Give kids opportunities to excel.  Middle School is a place where kids need to build confidence in some area. Finding their gifts and interests and making time to get them involved in those activities is important. You may need to look outside what their school offers.  Building their confidence while building friendships with other kids with their area of  interest is essential.
  • Let your child feel special and unique. When you’re with your child one-on-one, tell them things about themselves that make them different from their siblings.  I’ve put this into practice with all of our kids, acknowledging their differences while celebrating their uniqueness, letting them know their special place of honor.

When our children were young, I bought them each a book unique to their place in the family. For one child, I bought the book, “I Love You the Purplest” by Barbara Joosse.  It’s about a mom who sees a Woman whispering in man's earcompetitive spirit between her boys. She explains to each son how she loves them as individuals for their unique characteristics.  She whispers in their ears the way she sees them in their own special way.

For middle school teens, this is the secret message each one needs to hear.

  • They are understood.
  • They are seen.
  • They are known.
  • They are loved for who they are.

Middle school years can be the worst of times, but also the best of times as kids gain the strength, confidence, and courage in their own identity.   How have you helped your middle-schooler through these years? What do you remember from your own experience that would help today’s parents?  We’d love to hear from you!

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6 (NIV)

Father, will you allow each parent reading this today to be filled with your grace and strength to know each of their children in their uniqueness?   Will you fill each one with wisdom, strength and balance to parent during this exasperating years. Thank you that your grace is sufficient for all these needs.  Amen.

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