3 Good Things

Have you ever noticed how much easier it sometimes is to file a complaint than to feel gratitude? If so, you’re not alone.

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Sometimes it just feels more natural, or it just comes easier, to focus on what isn’t right than what is, what we don’t have than what we do, those who don’t like us than those who care deeply.

Attitude of Gratitude

Well, it’s no different for our children. In fact, if we are not pretty proficient in expressing our own gratitude, if we are not mostly optimistic and positive ourselves, then we may have inadvertently modeled some complaining, negativity, or resentment for our kids. They may have learned by our example.

As we reorient ourselves, I want to suggest a simple exercise that may help our children as well, create some great conversation, nurture gratitude and positivity, and maybe even bring some more restful sleep.

One of the men in my great dad coaching small group shared something very cool with us last week. It’s something he is currently doing with his two teenage sons. And the results sounded so great I had to share it with you. He calls it simply, “Three Good Things.”

Here’s how it works. He said that some time in the evening, it could be at dinner, later that night, even at bedtime, he asks his boys individually, “What are three good things that happened today?” So simple, yet so important, and in some ways, profound. That simple question opens his sons’ minds to rethink their day, to look back with the purpose of searching out what was good, and choosing to express it in a way that nurtures gratitude. That one question can help produce positivity.

I decided I’m going to do that with my boys as well. When I talk to them in the evening, I’m simply going to ask, “What are three good things that happened today for you?” Starting this Friday, all three of my boys will be staying with me for ten days. I can hardly wait! I’m planning to ask them every day this great question and just see where it takes us.

I hope to train myself, and my boys at the same time, to remember that there is always something to be grateful for. Sometimes we just need to think about it for a moment.

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Great Dad Tip: Shaping Character

Most dads really want their kids to grow up with good, solid, respectable character. We know that character in a man is ultimately what matters most. But how do children with lots to learn in the character department actually grow into young women and men of character? How does that happen?

Rabbi Neil Kurshan writes, “Children do not magically learn morality, kindness, and decency any more than they magically learn math, English or science. They mature into decent and responsible people by emulating adults who are examples and models for them, especially courageous parents with principles and values who stand up for what they believe.”[i]

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and The Great Dads Project

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously quoted once said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

 

If our children are going to grow into young women and men of character, it’s not going to happen by accident or luck. And it’s probably not their friends who are going to produce that desired result. How can dads make a difference?

About ten years ago, when my children were still rather young, I read two biographies of Martin Luther King Jr. It was a profoundly moving experience for me. But I wasn’t sure why, because although I extraordinarily respected Dr. King, I did not especially identify with him. For the depth of emotion I felt for the weeks I was reading of his life, I expected a greater sense of identification in some way. But that sense of identification was noticeably absent. I repeatedly thought as I read, “I could never have done this. I don’t have the depth of character, the courage and resolve to have endured what he endured, the firm resolution to suffer as he suffered, the graciousness and strength to be reviled, jailed, beat, stabbed, accused, and threatened, and never to retaliate with force. I could never have stood up under such pressure. I know myself too well. I know my own weaknesses, my own need for acceptance and affirmation, my own cowardice, brokenness, and aggression. I could never be a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

I frequently heard words like this in my head as I read. I longed to emulate him—to lead in my sphere of influence as he led in his—but I couldn’t see myself ever being like him. Why was I so moved by his life? Was it just sheer admiration?

I kept asking myself these questions as I monitored my internal, visceral reaction to my reading. It slowly dawned on me: I was not identifying with Dr. MLK Jr., but I was with his father—Daddy King, as they called him, MLK Sr. We don’t hear as much about him. I gradually recognized how much time and character he invested into the MLK we now know and have memorialized.

It was Daddy King who convinced young Martin that he could become whoever he set his mind to be and do whatever he chose to do.

It was the dad who laid a foundation for greatness by believing in his son—filling him with courage, confidence, and appropriate pride.

Daddy King gave his son a sense of security in who he was as a black man in this racially divided country in the 1930s, particularly in the South where he lived.

It was the father who gave his son a tremendous gift of faith, self-respect, self-discipline, and a self-perception that allowed him to succeed in a white man’s world—to become the prophet and leader of change he eventually became.

One day, the thought settled in my mind with the force of a resolved commitment, I will never be an MLK Jr. myself, but I might be able to raise three of them.

In that moment, my fathering identity and role shifted for me—it took on new depth of meaning. By committing to raise three potential MLKs, I was not in any way predicting or implying that any one of them would become a great public leader of change, or do anything noteworthy in a national or global way, though they may indeed choose to. That was not the point, nor my goal.

My newly focused purpose was to be the kind of dad Daddy King appears to have been to Martin—to impart the sort of character, the kind of self-image, confidence, respect, and faith that would allow my sons to become anything they choose to become, and to achieve anything they set their minds on. My commitment from that time forward was to do everything possible in my power as a dad to set my boys up for success in life—whatever they choose for that to mean.

My resolve is that nothing within them would ever hold them back from becoming and achieving greatness, as they would choose to define it. That was the gift I came to believe Daddy King gave to Martin. Martin chose what to do with it.

That gift I never received from my dad. But it was the gift I longed to give all three of my young sons.

I know ultimately it is a person’s character that shapes the quality of their life, and what they do with it—what they achieve themselves and how they impact others, for good or for ill. So, it became what we sometimes call a “no-brainer” that for me to become a great dad, character formation must be central to everything I do with my boys.

So how do we do it? How can we focus on the goal, on what matters most, by shaping character in our children? Over the next few weeks, I’ll post several blogs about some of the ways I’ve tried to do this as a dad, and some ways we tried to do it as a family when my boys were younger.

[i] Rabbi Neil Kurshan, Raising Your Child to Be a Mensch (New York: Atheneum, 1987) 11.


To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

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Great Dad Tip: Have You Scheduled a Date With Your Child Recently? And Billy Graham’s Surprising Confession

On the heels of the last two Great Dad Tips regarding children who spell LOVE as T-I-M-E, take some time this week to put on your calendar dates with each of your children. One-on-one time is priceless, and it doesn’t have to be something special you do, or expensive, it’s the time together that matters most to your kids.

Richard Halverson was a U.S. Senator from 1981 to 1995. Before that, he was a pastor of a large Presbyterian Church. He once shared that the main regret in his life was not spending enough time at home with his children when they were young. He publicly acknowledged, “I’ll never forget the words of my five-year-old daughter: ‘Daddy, how come you’re hardly ever home with us?’”

One young girl wrote, “My father is a millionaire. He gets paid 100 dollars an hour. If I had a 100 dollars, I would buy an hour of his time.”

I was stunned when I first read Billy Graham’s honest admission in his autobiography, Just As I Am, reflecting on his fathering experience. Graham is an internationally known and respected Christian evangelist. He is credited with the conversion of millions of people to Christianity worldwide. His international speaking ministry took him away from his family on a regular basis, sometimes for long periods of time. Yet among his loyal Christian followers, there is likely a general sense that all sacrificed for this worthy, eternal purpose was worth it. However, Billy Graham vulnerably disclosed:

“This [fathering] is a difficult subject for me to write about, but over the years, the BGEA [Billy Graham Evangelistic Association] and the Team became my second family without my realizing it. Ruth says those of us who were off traveling missed the best part of our lives—enjoying the children as they grew. She is probably right. I was too busy preaching all over the world. Only Ruth and the children can tell what those extended times of separation meant to them. For myself, as I look back, I now know that I came through those years much the poorer both psychologically and emotionally. I missed so much by not being home to see the children grow and develop. The children must carry scars of those separations too.” [i]

I’ve not yet met a man who later in his life said, “I wish I had spent less time with my kids when they were at home and more time at work.” You likely know several, if not many, who have expressed just the opposite regret: “I wish I had spent more time with my children.” We ought to think deeply and honestly about how much time we really do spend with our kids. Perhaps doing so could lead us to make some tough choices so we don’t ever have to make that sad confession.

Schedule dates with your kids. Actually write the dates into your calendar. Remember, great dads shape great kids. Be a great dads today.

[i] From JUST AS I AM: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (San Francisco: HarperCollins Worldwide, 1997) 702.

By the way, one more thing. I recently had an email exchange with a good man who attended one of my workshops. This particular workshop was held at a church. Understandably, several of the men who attended expected more Christian language, Scripture, and encouragement than I gave, given my commitment to reach all fathers, not just religious ones.

Read the blog at this link. Please share your thoughts about this as we all learn together.


To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

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The Role of Christian Faith and Language in Shaping Great Dads

Below is an email exchange I recently had with a good man who attended one of my workshops. This particular workshop was held at a church. Understandably, several of the men who attended expected more Christian language, Scripture, and encouragement than I gave, given my commitment to reach all fathers, not just religious ones.

With his permission, I’m posting our email conversation as a blog because this is not the first time I’ve had this dialogue, nor do I suspect it will be the last. My hope is that this post will serve to explain my current thinking about why I coach and teach as I do, and will also serve as an invitation for more dialogue with anyone who would like to comment, and help me learn.

This initial email below was in response to a “Great Dad Tip of the Week” about the need our children have for us as dads to spend more time with them, and how no dad ever says at the end of his life, “I wish I had spent more time at work and less with my family.” Yet many share the opposite regret.

I have, of course, changed the name of the man who wrote to me, and some of the details, to protect his privacy.

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Dear Keith-

I doubt that you remember me since I was one of many attendees at your workshop several years ago.

I believe your message is right on except I believe one’s belief in Christ is critical in the equation. This is just MY OPINION and the reason why I did not write a recommendation. I hope this comment is written as a constructive comment.

Thank you for your message and help, Michael.

I do remember you, Michael. And I appreciate and understand your comment well. For Christian dads, this is certainly true–their commitment to Jesus should lead them to become better dads.

My audience includes many Christian men, and also many other men who have other beliefs. I hope to support, coach, and strengthen all dads, those who share your devotion to Jesus, and those who are not at that place in their lives. All children deserve great dads, which I assume you agree with.

Christian dads are able to express God’s love to their children, and their commitment to God will hopefully lead them to spend the kind of time with their kids I suggested in my email. However, for dads who are not devoted to God in the faith or way you are, some other motivation must be triggered. Since my purpose is to help all fathers become great dads, I’m not preaching or quoting Christian Scripture (often) or urging men to live out a devotion that may not exist, or may exist in another form of faith.  

Thanks for your comment, Michael. I’m really glad you felt comfortable to write to me and share your thoughts.

I welcome your response to my words here. I’m still learning how to do this, and your insights are much appreciated.  Keith

Hi Keith-

I am certainly not even an amateur in this area. Struggling to understand how one is to be a witness for Christ. I believe we have a responsibility to be witnesses to Christ, even to those who do not believe.

HOW this is done properly is an issue I am struggling with.

I do believe that our responsibility to God supersedes our responsibilities as dads to our children. 

Again, my thoughts.  Michael

Thank you, Michael, for your honest and humble response. I sure appreciate and respect both in you. 

I am learning along with you. I don’t think either role needs to supersede the other. I think we simply are witnesses of all we believe as we live our lives and faith. We are to be true and devoted to our faith and to our children, and to share the love of God with everyone we meet, as St. Francis once said, “sometimes with words.”  

Again, my purpose is to help all men heal and become great dads. If they also find God in the process, that’s wonderful. But if they come short of that and become great dads, it seems to me God will smile and work his magic along the way. What a beautiful transformation will have already occurred. And from what I understand Jesus said about children and God’s special love for them, I think he might be very happy about the work I’m attempting.

Just my thoughts, Michael. All of yours are always welcome as we learn together.  Keith

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I’d love to hear your thoughts about this email exchange. Please leave a comment below.

To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

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A Father First: How (Dwyane Wade’s) Life Became Bigger Than Basketball

Dwyane Wade bookI recently completed reading Wade’s fantastic and compelling book. Here’s a review for your benefit. I hope you choose to get the book and read it from cover to cover as I did. You will not be disappointed. Read below and decide for yourself. Enjoy.

The Author:  

Dwyane Wade is a three-time NBA Champion with the Miami Heat and a single father to three sons, Zaire and Zion, his own biological sons, and Dahveon (Dada), a nephew who mixes it up with them.

Target Audience:

This book has an intentional wide reach. Though Wade holds Christian beliefs he makes clear in the book, nothing about the book, the story, or the writing appears preachy or exclusive. He intends to reach all dads to inspire them toward more engaged and loving fathering.

What the Book is About:

This book tells three distinct and moving stories woven together to reveal the life, character, and passion of one remarkable man—Dwyane Wade—childhood survivor, basketball superstar, and devoted father.

Keith’s Reflections:

This was a compelling, informative, and inspiring read. I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve seen Wade play basketball but do not know the backstory. Wade survived a terrifying childhood of poverty, violence, drugs, abandonment, and fear, in large measure due to the persistent and sacrificial love and protection of his older sister, Tragil whom he clearly adores and for whom he is beautifully grateful.

The book opens with his very public and sensationalized divorce and custody battle which he eventually won to have his sons returned to him and to come live with him in Miami. Soon after, his nephew Dada joined them.

Woven throughout is Wade’s basketball journey from a very young hoopster on the streets and playgrounds of Chicago, through his formative years as a player and young man in high school, to his big transition to college hoops at Marquette, and eventually to his star-studded career in the NBA.

Throughout, we read of his love for his sons, his commitment to grow as a father, the help he receives along the way from so many, and the many playful, loving, serious, and adventurous moments with his boys that light up the pages and the reader’s heartstrings. Wade shares insights and points of encouragement regarding fathering, especially as a single dad, for dads who live with their kids and those who don’t.

A wonderful collection of stories and a heartfelt piece of encouragement to be a father first, no matter what you do to make a living. Click on the picture of his book above to go to Amazon to order your copy.

To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

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