So, Dad, Did YOU Earn a 4.0?

A defining moment in any dad’s life is when his son or daughter “leaves the nest.” It’s a roller coaster ride of reflection and anticipation…and conviction about how well you prepared them for success in life. For you younger dads, just wait!

 

The first time it happened to me, it literally changed my life. It was August 2008, two weeks before our Michael would leave for his freshman year of college. That Sunday night I experienced a “dad moment” for a lifetime.  I began questioning how I had done as his father. Did I cover the bases? How will our relationship change and grow? Did I earn a 4.0?


Honestly, I felt so convicted by these questions that I rushed to my computer and began recording all the life wisdom I could muster. My brain was bombarded by one thought after another as I reflected on the amazing leaders I’ve met. They covered fundamental questions like how one defines “success” and demonstrates honorable character. Or, how one builds strong relationships and communicates well with others. Or, how one handles adversity and becomes a masterful decision maker and time manager. Then, I turned to advice for the upcoming decisions he’d be facing, such as his academic transition, career, marriage, and managing his finances.

 

In the days ahead, I shared my list of 100 life success pointers with parents and leaders and they all urged me to write a book! And, so I did. In a few years, my list would become a conversational book of essential life wisdom for young people and the adults who guide them…like dads!

 

Based on reader feedback, What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead is proving to be a wonderful, third party voice for parents and a rare book they can enjoy together with their teens. The key is finding a spot for regular casual conversation (e.g., coffee shops), letting them choose the topics, opening up about your life at that age, and just sharing together. The rest is magic.

 

So, how do you earn a 4.0 in preparing your children to thrive as adults? In a nutshell, a “legendary dad” focuses on the following:

 

  • Destinational Preparation: providing a comprehensive vision for an honorable, productive life and before-the-fact wisdom for key upcoming decisions (the essence of my book)
  • Relational Preparation: evolving your parenting style from “control” to “influence,” based on mutual trust (“coach” vs. “lecture”); conveying your belief in them and confidently releasing them into independent life
  • Transitional Preparation: ensuring they (and you!) get off to a strong start in those critical first 3-6 months after leaving home; preparing them for the upcoming social transition and avoiding putting undue pressure on them to “perform”

 

What I Wish I Knew at 18 serves dads as a destination guide for the milestone launch into adulthood. The book is available at Atlas Books, Amazon, and bookstores just for the asking, and we’re at dennistrittin.com.

 

May you earn a 4.0 in the eyes of your children!

 

 

Don’t Make Daddy Cry

As dads, we can usually hold it together in the most emotional and tense of circumstances.  We can deal with the mood swings of wife and daughter by thinking about how great it feels to catch a fish and how much we would love to drive a stock car around the block.  Personally, I am usually a nervous wreck leading up to the “Big Event” (i.e. graduation, birthday parties, surgeries) but hold it together when it’s time to be “in the moment.”  This ebb and flow of emotions is the story of my emotional status as a father with my daughter.  All of this “manly” emotional stability goes out the window when the commercial below comes on TV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qf8OGLqE1s

This commercial encapsulates the anxiety I feel every time I look at my daughter and think about all the milestones ahead of us.  As my daughter starts Kindergarten in the next few weeks, I have no doubt this commercial will come on and I will have to turn it off. . . again.  And she will again say. . “Daddy. . I was watching that. . ”  I know baby girl. . I know you were.

Coaching Your Kids to Awesomeness

As dads, we barely understand the HUGE impact we have on our children’s lives.  We know that throughout their life, they will have various different influences. . . beginning with us, transitioning to their teachers and then to their peers.  Whatever their dominant influence, the lessons provided by parents will certainly be the most powerful and cause them to reflect the greatest amount.  How do we use our parental/fatherly influence to impact their lives forever more?

One way I believe dads can impact their their son’s and daughter’s lives is through coaching them.  I believe “coaching” in the development sense. . not simply in the sports sense. . . is a deliberate way we can impact children of all ages.  Dads coaching their kids looks like this. . .

  • Sharing your own experiences to help their kids understand they are not alone.  Simply saying “That has happened to me before. . . this is what I did” provides incredible perspective to young children.  My daughter will often ask me. . . “Have you ever. . . ?” or “When you were a little boy, did you. . . . . . ?”  Don’t be afraid to share your mistakes/successes with your children.
  • Letting your sons/daughters understand their mistakes have consequences.  Coaching your kids to understand that EVERYTHING has a consequence is a lesson they need to know in order to be successful and productive people.  Helping them understand this BEFORE they make a mistake is the key to coaching them.  Informing them of consequences AFTER a mistake is called DISCIPLINE.  We want to help them to fully understand that every action has a reaction.
  • Coaching your kids means listening and watching.  Just like that favorite coach you had as a kid.  It could have been a baseball/football/gymnastics/piano/video game coach, no matter the skill, they taught you through listening to your concerns and watching you perform.  They provided straightforward feedback to improve your game/skill.  We need to take on the same mindset with our kids while we coach them and prepare them for life.  This might require us to step out of SUPERMAN mode and just engage our sons and daughters on their level, listening to their concerns and helping them understand what they may or may not face.

Coaching our kids is not easy.  Just like the 1,000,000+ foul shots Michael Jordan had to take to be great, we need offer the same persistence and intensity to our children in the goal for them to be great.  Reaching Legendary Dad status is not easy. . . but you are the man for the job

.Michael Jordan Graetest Slam Dunks

Father and Daughter – Lost in Translation

Recently, I was pondering the differences between boys and girls; fathers and mothers and the other completely confusing things nobody will understand.  I developed this short list that states the confusion between fathers and daughters.  I am sure this list will grow as my daughter gets older and I get dumber. . . .

  • Squealing: Everything is accompanied by a squeal.  Excited about ice cream – SQUEAL, Excited about Kitty Cats – SQUEAL, Its Raining – SQUEAL, A mess is on the floor – SQUEAL.  Dads won’t understand this compulsion.
  • Singing: Everything has a soundtrack.  While driving – (singing) “I love driving in the car. . I love looking out the window. . . I love my brother. . . I love food.”  While on the toilet – (true story) “Go tell it on the Mountain. . . .” With her friends – (to the tune of Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) “All the StringRays, All the String Rays”
  • Everything is a show: My daughter wants to dress up and be “presented” at least 10 times a day.  When her friends come over, they dance on the mantle and perform a sort of Laurel and Hardy show.  We dads love it. . . but totally don’t get the fascination with the hours of performance.

I have no doubt that father’s and daughters in their quest to understand each other will discover new territory through their mutual confusion.  That’s the best type of confusion.

     

    Talk is not cheap! Especially when it come to our kids.

    We have all heard the saying “Talk Is Cheap” right?  Well, when it come to our kids, I totally disagree!  Interacting and conversations with our kids is invaluable - from birth to adulthood, communication is such a strong building block.

    parentchildtalk
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    No one likes to be ignored and we all feel what we have to say is important.  So, my wife and I have conversations with our 5 year-old, Julia, everyday.  In the car on the way to and from school, during meals, while cooking, etc.  These conversations has helped make Julia and us better listeners and Julia has learned to be a good conversationalist for her age.   We don’t want just yes or no answers, so when we ask “How was your day at school?” and we use to get “Good” for an answer, we’d follow-up with “What was your favorite part of the day? Why”  “Who did you eat lunch with? What did they eat?” Etc.  It’s almost become ritual now that at dinner we all take turns talking about “our day.”  It’s fun and nice!

    Although our 18 month-old, Stella, is not “talking” a lot, but she understands so much of what we say, so communicating with her is equally important so she doesn’t feel left out, she can hear and pick up speech, tone, words and absorb these language skills as well.

    • Infants love to hear their parents/family members voices…it brings comfort, familiarity and emotions into their lives.
    • Toddlers learn through repetition and experience.  Their vocabularies develop and grow through speech.
    • Preschoolers continue to absorb information like sponges!  My 4 1/2 year-old always asks what a new word means when she hears it from us, others or on tv/radio.  I have to admit sometimes it is a challenge to define and explain some word, but I rather have her learn from us and enjoy conversing with her every day.  We also enjoy reading every night before bed.
    • School age kids have their communication and listening skills developed by all the earlier interactions and exposures.  I believe all the prior experience helps them build focus, tone, writing skills and relationship building (via interactions and meaningful conversations).
    • Pre-teen and young adults - cognitive thinking, forming solid statements based on reasoning and being able to stand for a cause with strong will and belief.  Independence in mind and being resourceful and successful in school and career.

    So, my bottom line – “Talk is NOT cheap when it comes to children!” Listen, communicate and take time to have fun yet meaningful conversations and read together when possible.

     

    Father and Daughter Conversations

    The conversations between a father and daughter are priceless.  Being a Legendary Dad means maximizing those conversations and using them to gain insight into the life of your daughter.  I recently had one of those conversations with my 4 year old daughter (Note: This conversation happened at 6:45am).  It went something like this. . . . .

    EB-”Daddy, when are you taking me on another date?” (Hand on her hip)

    Pops-”I don’t know, we don’t have one planned yet.” (Getting dressed, still sleepy)

    EB-”Maybe we can go this weekend, like Friday or Saturday.” (Visually annoyed)

    Pops-”Baby, I think we are busy this weekend but I can’t wait to go on another date with you.”

    EB-”We have only been on two dates. . . one to the diner and one to see a movie.  When are we going again?”

    Not only did this conversation wake me up fully, but I also got to see the impact of those special times.  Dr. Meg Meeker talks about this in her book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should KnowHealth, Mind & Body Books).  Part of being a Legendary Dad is being a Hero and Protector to your daughter.  This is definitely not the easiest thing to do when daughters and dads and usually like night and day.  My daughter communicated to me how doing two of my favorite things. . eating and watching a movie. . . can be used to make a lifelong impact on her life.  I can’t wait to go on another date with my daughter. . . . maybe Friday or Saturday.