Category Archives: Dad

Make Every Night Game Night

gamenight

Here’s how a typical conversation with my kids on the way home from school goes, “so how was your day?” Response from my third grader, “Good.”

Response from my kindergartner, “Fine.”

And if I don’t press, that’s the end of our convo. The next 20 minutes we listen to music, the girls talk to one another, and that’s that. It’s not until we get home that my wife begins asking more questions that I hear stuff like, “our field trip was so fun!” or “Mommy, a boy in my class really hurt my feelings. He kept calling me names.”  

I get it, my girls have a special bond with mom, and she can ask the same question that I do, and often get a much better response. That’s common.  But I want to be UNCOMMEN! So we instituted a new game in our household that gets everyone talking and listening, and the best part is, Daddy made it happen.

We call it, “Q Time,” which stands for “Question Time”.  Sometimes in the car, or often-times at the dinner table, we start it up like this:

One of the kids initiates in their best pep rally voice,”What time is it?!”

Then we triple clap.

The kids cheer, “Q Time!”

Repeat. Typically only once, sometimes obnoxiously loud. Always with enthusiasm!

The rules are simple. Whomever started Q Time picks the first person to share something about their day, good or bad. Then each family member can ask one question to discover more information. As a family we are all engaging each person fully, giving them our undivided attention, and asking them more questions to find out what made that issue so good (or bad) that they had to share during our most awesome Q Time. I’ve been amazed at how attentive a 9 year old, 6 year old, and 5 year old twins can be to one another. It’s also here that Mom and Dad discover if there is something we need to talk to our children privately about. Q Time is fun. It’s almost always fun. But if it’s not for a particular child, that often means there’s something they are really hurt by or embarrassed about, which gives me and my wife the heads up that one of us needs to follow-up. We’ve been playing Q Time for over a year, and have noticed the need to have just a few of those one on one conversations.

For now, the kids are pretty transparent with one another, and I’m just ecstatic that we are setting the expectation that we regularly share about our feelings and what influenced our attitudes and actions throughout the day.  I didn’t really have that as a kid, but I’m determined to make it happen for my family.  More importantly, my kids are determined to be more fully known. As they get older, I’m sure we’ll have to change the rules of the game, as I’m sure pep rallies will be reserved for high school football games. Hopefully we’re laying the groundwork now that can be carried over to another creative share time as they get too cool for mom and dad, sigh.  I also pray that in the future, they pay it forward during their own family time.

Struggling to get your kids to speak up about their day, try making a game out of it. Come up with the rules as a collective, play consistently, modify as needed. Do something like this already,  please share with @UNCOMMENapp #UNCOMMEN. We’d love to hear!

written by UNCOMMEN Executive Director, Dee Lanier

 

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Pitch Perfect Day

Most dads receiving this blog post have a lot to do and don’t have time to read. Thanksgiving is only a few days away and you’re likely thinking about wrapping up work for the week, getting the family ready for a visit somewhere, and which teams are playing on Turkey Day. So if you’ve tuned me out, I get it. To those dads, I say Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your family time.

Now to the dads that are still extremely busy, but can spare 5 more minutes to read a cool baseball story. Allow me to paint the scenario… The weather in Upstate New York was amazing for Halloween Day. It was 11 am. and nearly sixty degrees. The sky was blue, the grass was still green, and the colors of fall speckled the trees. It was a pitch perfect day for Trick or Treating and… one more game of wiffleball.

There’s two outs in the bottom of the third. The Royals trail the Dodgers 10 – 8 in the decisive and final inning of Game 7 in the D-K Wiffle Ball World Series. The previous 6 games were battles, a roller coaster of emotion for both Dad and Kenny. But it could all come down to this. The Royals have a gift runner (Dad) on first base after a fielding error on the second basemen (Kenny). But the Dodgers’ closer (Kenny again) is pitching lights out. As the closer searches for the right grip, let’s reflect on the past 25 days.

The whole thing started after the MLB playoff brackets were announced. For the fifth consecutive year, Dad and Kenny would play every game until a victor was proclaimed. The format was single-elimination for the wild card and divisional rounds, a best of three for the championship series, and a traditional best of seven for the World Series. 17 games were already in the books and the 2015 match up had Dad’s Kansas City Royals against Kenny’s Los Angeles Dodgers.

Kenny, the Dodger closer, stares down the potential tying run as he grips the wiffleball, holes away from the batter. It will be another curve ball, attempting to paint the outside corner of the plate. The wind up… the pitch… Dad swings. Crack! The ball shoots down the first base line, but Kenny was quick off the mound. He fields it and touches first base just ahead of the charging Royals runner (that’s Dad again). Out number three. Ball game over. Series over. An eruption of emotion and jubilation fills the field. Dad hoists his 10-year-old son up in the air and hugs him. “You did it! You won… again!” For the fifth consecutive year, Kenny is crowned champion.

This is Dadnamics, or the infusion of creativity, adventure, and silliness into Dad-Time. The D-K Wiffleball World Series is merely one more example of how this Dad operates. But why? The greater the risk, the greater the reward. How can we, as Dads, capture more memories in the time we are able to spend with our kids? It’s not a lecture of quality time vs. quantity time. Both are vital. But we are all stressed for time as dads, so here’s the challenge. Why not seize an opportunity this Thanksgiving weekend? It won’t take much. Just crank up the Dadnamics dial of creativity, adventure, and silliness and create a memory. I promise you that it will be worth the risk. Not only will you have a blast, but your son or daughter will never forget.

And that’s a good thing.

Bible Reference: 2 Chronicles 5:13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud,

Written by UNCOMMEN contributor, Ken Carfagno. To learn more about Dadnamics, visit www.dadnamics.com.

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The Power (and destruction) of Angry Words

11_9Breathe

I get to approach this conversation from two perspectives. The first is that I have been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and personal development coach for the last 10 years.  I have worked with hundreds of men on the topic of anger and how to handle those moments of frustration as well as explore the underlying triggers of anger in their lives. In doing that work I have discovered many great tools that effectively help my clients manage their anger.

The second perspective which I approach conversation is more personal and powerful I think. My wife and I have been married for 18 years and we have four kids between the ages of 10 and 6. I’d love to say that I’ve mastered this aspect of my life and that I never allow frustration to seep out but thats not true. One of my goals is to practice what I preach and to be authentic in who I am and how I present healthy life instructions for my clients. With that, I certainly don’t pretend to be perfect, but I am committed to doing my best to live out the principles for which I encourage I clients embrace. The bottomline is, I have learned by personal trial and error.

Growing up, I had always been taught that it was wrong to be angry that it was inherently bad.  In fact, my conservative religious background gave me the impression that it is a sin be angry. Therefore, whenever I got angry, I not only felt the frustration of the situation that triggered my anger, but I also felt a religious guilt or shame that I got angry in the first place. That typically would make me just feel more frustrated or even angry at myself.

As a young adult, I came to the understanding it is inevitable that you will have strong emotions, but when you have them, do not cause harm.

It is important to be aware of how powerful these moments areThey are VERY powerful and must be treated with respect and responsibility. Our words can leave a painful and lasting impact. Our tone of voice must not be overlooked, as well as our physical posturing in these moments of frustration and anger.

If you’re a dad with young kids there is lots of research showing that there is NO lasting benefit to disciplining when we are angry. Heres a quick summary of the brain-science: the minds of our young children is much more primal or animalisticthan logical. They perceive our frustration, anger, and adrenaline as a direct threat to their existenceliterally, to their survival. In those moments of our anger, their brains are activating the flight or fight instinctual reaction. That is not the part of the brain we want to stimulate when we are correcting or disciplining our kids. In order to be effective in changing our children’s behavior it is so important to maintain a low firm calm tone of voice, to kneel down to their eye level and clearly express the desired behavioral expectation. In so doing, we allow their developing frontal lobe (the logical part of the brain) a chance to make a logical step forward.

Here are some suggestions I use in my life and coach my clients towards:

Creatively increase your margins

If you are like me or others I know, you live a very full life with no extra time or margin in the schedule. The idea of self-care or leisurely time is elusive however, very important. It would be ideal if it is possible to maintain habits such as weekly exercise routines, small community groups, or other fun activities.

As a result, we need to get creative in finding ways to create this much needed space. One space that most of us have is our drive time in the car to and from work. I am sure this is getting some chuckles because most people equate commute time to road-rage, not zen-filled mindful peacefulness. But if you are as busy as I am, you have no choice but to capture every moment that can be used for good. Be aware of what you’re doing in the car on your drive to and from work. What are you listening to? What are you thinking about? I suggest making a playlist of music that you have a positive and peaceful association with and listening to that instead of talk radio that may increase stress or anxiety.

I also coach my clients to practice a basic breathing exercise to do while driving that lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. The simple explanation, is to intentionally take about 10 long slow inhalations as if you were faking a yawn. This practice of deep breathing has an automatic physiological response in our bodies to reduce stress.

Create a daily prayer or mantra.

I had a client named Jason who was a Marine Corps vet who received a purple heart in Afghanistan. Among other things dealing with his anger was a part of the counseling goals. He daily took a commuter train to downtown Los Angeles and use that time to to create some much needed margin in his life. Every day as he rode in to work you take on this positive statement of became a prayer or mantra for him: I am a good leader, I will manage my team well, I will effectively overcome obstacles and create solutions at work today.Likewise on the ride home, it’s been a few moments thinking I am a good man, I will connect with my wife affectionately, and be present with my children joyfully tonight at home.

Don’t go at it alone

As men we need to interact with other men in healthy ways. Connecting with other men to provide accountability is imperative to minimize our negative response in moments of frustration and anger. Accountability can play out in many different ways; our close friend, an online community, a counselor, a personal development coach, or a pastor. And for some of us it may look like attending a specific group design for anger management. And that’s fine. Because we need to know that we aren’t designed to do it alone, and is wise to get support.

The chances are, if you are reading this post you are a person prone to passion and strong feelings.  That is great, be a passionate person. But remember in those strong feelingsin those impassioned emotionsdo not cause harm. Be UNCOMMEN.

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The Masks We Wear

10_15MaskHalloween has been my favorite holiday since I was a kid. The buzz and excitement that comes with decorating your house, carving pumpkins, dressing up, and getting candy; I mean what more could a kid want? As a young boy, I thought it was so cool when my dad and other dads would walk around with their kids, street to street, house to house to help us ask the infamous three word question to each door that opened up to us, “Trick or treat!?”

That same three word question has always stuck in my mind as I got older: Trick or treat?

Halloween is a holiday for pretending we’re someone else, but are we pretending beyond just this one day? In college I went through plenty of pretending to be someone I wasn’t.  Heck, this resonates with me even today, so I bet I’m not alone with the identity struggle.

I think this begs the question – are you the man you thought you’d be? Ask yourself, “Am I the husband I vowed I’d be?” Or maybe ask, “Am I showing up as the father I promised I would be?” I encourage you to ask yourself these set of questions and then asked your loved ones.

In reference to characters, one of my favorite character developments comes from the Mighty Ducks movie trilogy. In every movie, when the main character was out of alignment, the elder, wiser statesman always showed up to help the other have a reality check. Hans and Yans did it for Coach Bombay in D1 & D2 and Bombay returned the favor and sat down with Charlies in D3. Each one of these talks reminded the troubled character of the great man that others saw them as and they always ended it with saying, “So be that man.”

If you are out of alignment with how you wanted to show up as a father, husband, or leader I think Halloween 2015 is your call to action to hit the reset button. It’s your time to be UNCOMMEN and not dress up in who you want to be, but instead BE THAT MAN.

Here’s my “Be That Man” Challenge:

  • Go into the holiday season with a developed action plan to address, “Here is how I am going to show up as a (pick one) father, husband, leader.” Include tangible things you can do (i.e. I will take my wife out on a date once a week, I will spend every Saturday morning removed from my phone and play with my kid) and evaluate how well you did it, etc.
  • Use the weeks in between Halloween and Thanksgiving to Be That Man by implementing your action plan. Ask for regular feedback from loved ones to gauge how you’re doing. Make changes accordingly.
  • The first day of the challenge is Halloween. The last day of the challenge is Thanksgiving Day. (Yes, this gives you something else to be thankful for – your progression throughout this journey).

Use your UNCOMMEN community to keep you accountable. Begin on Halloween Day and take someone to go out and ask, “Trick or treat!?” It’s no trick, you can do this. That version of yourself does exist and I believe doing this challenge will help you reclaim it.  So be that man. Be that man.

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Beyond the Benjamins: 3 Qualities of a Provider

 

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Now… What y’all wanna do?

Wanna be ballers? Shot-callers?

Brawlers

 –Puffy Combs, aka Puff Daddy, aka P. Diddy, aka…

I am a Judge’s son.

Growing up, I was the cute little blond haired kid campaigning on your doorstep and stuttering in a high voice, “Hi. P-P-Please vote for my Dad.”

 

I was so proud to be my father’s son. To this day I take full credit for my Dad getting elected all those years.

Regardless of your “Dad” experience growing up, someone along the way worked hard to provide for you. Growing up, I took my Dad for granted. The older I get, the more thankful I am for his diligence and sacrifice.

He was a provider.

As a man of faith, I take the charge to provide for my household pretty seriously. You may be at a different place spiritually, but I think we could all agree that working hard and coming up short is one thing, but being lazy while our family “starves” ain’t cool.

Was P. Diddy right when he so eloquently stated, “all about the Benjamins, baby”?  It should be the duty and joy of every man to  put food on the table, clothes in the closet, and money in the accounts. However, being a provider is so much more than bringing home the bacon. It’s so much more than paying for nice houses, vacations, and private schools. It’s so much more than just being a cog in the wheel of life. The call to provide is much broader than just the monetary.

What if we cared more about filling the hearts of our family than filling the accounts of our bank?

Maybe it’s more about what we leave in our family, than what we leave for our family. After all, one is a larger investment with perpetual returns while the other is a smaller investment with temporary returns.

I don’t know about you, but this broader meaning of a “provider” takes the pressure off to try to “keep up with the Jones’.” I believe the true call of provision is modelled for us in the following: With presence. With perseverance. With prudence.

#1. Presence. The greatest example of a Dad is one that isn’t a distant or a disengaged father who hides behind a busy schedule. While he may be busy, he is never too hurried to be with his family. He realizes the greatest gift he can give his kids is simply His presence. He is the kind of Dad who is fully present and in the moment. He’s not distracted by emails, texts, or the latest news feed.  This dad is slow to speak, quick to listen, and is content to just be with his kids. A “present” provider’s identity isn’t wrapped up in their job, but rather in their family.

#2. He provides perseverance. The greatest example of a Dad isn’t a passive father who remains silent when he needs to speak up or gives up when he needs to step up. When storms come, His humble yet confident perseverance rubs off on his kids, inspiring them to have the same  grit, resolve, and endurance he has for them.

#3. He provides prudence. The greatest example of a Dad isn’t the kind of dad driven by instant gratification and whatever feels good in the moment. While he is fully present, he also leads with prudence and is wise about planning our future. Faced with a decision, a “prudent” provider keeps the end in mind and asks, “Will this grow or slow my relationship with my kids? Will this help or hinder their relationships?”

So may we provide for our family the way we are truly called, with presence, perseverance, and prudence.

And may we stutter our way through life, inspiring others to vote for our “Dad”.

heath

This week’s blog post is written by Heath Krueger. Heath grew up in Ohio but calls Charlotte home.  He is a proud father of 3 kids, a Pastor for 15 years, officiates nearly 25 weddings a year, and is a speaker and aspiring author. Read more from Heath Krueger at (www.heathkrueger.com).[i]

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My Father, My Future, My Faith

coffin
While Holding My Father’s Hand

I traveled to California

To bury my father

With him rest the memories

Sights and sounds of smiles and laughter

The hope for more opportunities

Our last time together he held my hand

Tighter than I thought he could

Tubing travelled from pouch to vein

Heavily he breathed while he slept

Quietly I stared and prayed

While gathering thoughts

Breathing the heavy air

Suddenly

He opened his eyes

He called me near

The same voice

Though shaky and weak

Spoke my name

I returned the gaze

Then for the second time that I ever recall

I heard my dad pray

While holding my hand

My Father

It’s been a battle to allow myself to feel this. On Sunday morning, August 9, 2015, I received the dreaded call from my Aunt Jackie.  “Lil Donald, your dad passed this morning.”  It was a call I had been expecting for months.  One I knew would come from Jackie.  It was 5 years ago I received a call from Aunt Jackie, my dad’s baby sister, asking me if I was sitting down. I thought it was the call.  The call to confirm that after decades of drinking, my father’s liver had given out. But this was a different kind of call. Shockingly she told me that my father had checked himself into rehab. Admittedly, my first thought was, why now? Why after all of these years did he finally decide to stop? It was later that I realized that one of the reasons why was because of his grandchildren. He wanted to be with them and around for them. The next 5 years gave him an extra lease on life. 5 years that I did not expect. We talked on the phone often, he visited me in Charlotte, I went to see him in Los Angeles. He got to meet all of his grandchildren. His rehabilitation did not extend his life for the many years that we hoped, but it did extend the opportunity for us to reconcile, and connect, and to say I love you.

My Future

Ever since that phone call, I could sense a change in my perspective in life. I have to do everything I can to love and protect my wife and kids. As a father of four, I realize I have a lot at stake. Every day, every decision I make, there are high stakes. I have to consider my health, financial freedom, faithfulness to my wife, connectedness to friends. Everything. Furthermore, I realize that the stats are against me.  

As I near the age of 40, the number 40 stands out strong.

  • I am at risk, simply because I am married. My lovely wife and I are holding on strong, by grace alone, but it’s shocking to know that according to the APA, 40% of first time marriages in America end in divorce.
  • We have been married for 11 years, and according to the CDC, 43% of first marriages in the U.S. end within the first 15 years. We gotta keep holding on.
  • My parents divorced when I was young, and studies state that children of divorced parents are 40% more likely to get a divorce than those that were not.

My Faith

Like I said, the stats are against me, but I rely on a few things for success.  I rely on my faith, extended family support, my friends, and when the going gets rough, my faith some more. When my father held my hand and prayed with me, I was reminded that I need to do this more often with my family.  Only Christ sustains me and my marriage.

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