Tag Archives: single

“Ts” Of Single Fatherhood – Truth

“Your son will never lie to you.  But do not believe a word he says.”

Let it sink in…

I had the same thoughts you have right now when my son’s therapist told me this.  But you need some context.  My son was seven at the time and what he told my therapist and me about some events did not seem believable.  Later, she reminded me he was sharing his perceptions of events, and even though his words gave rise to concern, I should take them with a grain of salt.

He told me the truth, but his truth and reality may not completely align.

He had no motivation to deceive me, but his ability to understand and interpret the actions and words of adults confused him and his reality may not precisely reflect what was said and done.

Enough psychobabble.  On to what you and I face every day.

Photo Credit: Lucky1988 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Lucky1988 via Compfight cc

Kids take words quite literally.  It is all fun and games when we tell them the moon is made of cheese, but altogether different when the “parent” hat is on with serious matters to discuss.

I never want my son to question my intentions or actions.  I want clarity and want him to feel comfortable asking for clarification if he does not understand.

That only comes when your home has a culture of truth.  I am all for blaming the dog for a fart, but, again, on serious matters, our kids need us to be honest.

Some of the ways I foster a culture of honesty and truth are:

Saying “I don’t know” when I don’t know.  We do not have all the answers and our kids need to know it.  Whether we do not know the math equation to find the volume of a box or do not know why or how to explain the actions of our exes, we have the freedom to say “I don’t know.”  We cannot stop there.  We can empower our kids to explore and figure out math equations.  We can also give our kids some insight to being a normal person who may not understand the actions or words of another – to rest in the tension that we will not always be able to figure out why friends and family do things.  Why a best friend would say something hurtful.  Why a sibling would lash out and call them names.  We may not always know the answer, but we can control our response and reaction.

Invite clarification.  Ask your kids to repeat to you what they think you said – especially when discussing difficult issues.  Get yourself and teach them to seek clarity so communication becomes clear and confusion disappears.  This discipline can help everyone at home, school, work, and life.

Affirm the value of their words.  My son comes up with some pretty fantastical stuff.  He saw a rattlesnake while hiking.  He saw a Great White shark when kayaking in San Diego Bay.  Someone stepped on his face with their cleat during flag football.  Instead of deflating their stories we should engage, seek clarification, and help them navigate the awesome world of childhood imagination and play.  We can gently push them toward truth and remind them of the story of the boy who cried wolf.  But we can also let them be kids and remember their perceptions of reality may differ from ours depending on their age and development.

Be honest.  This should go without saying.  You and I have already discovered how closely our kids listen and how much they remember.  If we deceive our kids, they will learn from us and do the same.  I remember when my son just turned nine and he asked me about Santa like he had done in years past.  But this time was different.  His demeanor, his tone, and his eyes told me it was time to let him know the truth.  He also asked me about his mom and my divorce.  To this day, I tell him the truth – all he needs to know is that his mom and I love him and the divorce was not his fault.  It does not answer the question he wants answered, but it is honest.

What is the most awesome/funny make believe story your kids have told?

“Ts” Of Single Fatherhood – Talk

“Hi, son!  How was your day?”


“What happened at school?”


“Anything happen you would like to talk about?”


Sound like a familiar conversation when you pick your kid up?

For our purposes, we will acknowledge conversation between father and child benefits both the father and child.  We will acknowledge the importance of verbal communication for the development of our kids from a social and emotional standpoint.

Photo Credit: Alkavare via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Alkavare via Compfight cc

If you have had experiences like the one I shared above, we need to move beyond the “why” and get to the “how”.

OBSERVE:  When do you like to talk to others and when do you like to be left alone?  Do you want peace and quiet before breakfast?  Until you get to work?  Do you need some time to decompress after a long day and collect your thoughts without engaging in conversation?  Well, our kids have similar preferences.  Learn yours and learn theirs.  Use that information to determine the best time to engage in meaningful conversation.  Many kids do not want to talk about their day at school immediately after leaving, and instead would like to listen to music or shoot some hoops – not a good time to actively engage.  Instead, figure out when they are most open.  For many, it is at bedtime (see my post about bedtime rituals for some thoughts on this).

ASK QUESTIONS:  Would you rather get a lecture or engage in a dialogue?  Often, we equate talking to our kids with telling our kids what we think.  Instead, observe which questions pique their interest and elicit a response more than a simple “yes” or “no”.  Sometime our kids need to hear from us in the lecture format, but talking to them involves a two-way dialogue.  Properly worded questions can sometimes teach more than any droning lecture because they encourage our kids to think about choices and the reasons behind them.

INVITE QUESTIONS:  We used to have a time before bed where I told my son he could ask me any question he wanted with the promise I would give an honest answer.  When he would ask about the divorce, I honestly told him it was not appropriate for me to discuss and went right into my “broken record” explanation.  When he would ask a question about an aspect of science I did not know, I told him I would do some research and get back to him. Sometimes he had no questions and sometimes I knew the answer.  Encouraging our kids to ask questions seems to make them more comfortable with talking – at least it did with my son.

LISTEN:  In those moments you want to really talk to your kids and connect, give them your attention when they talk.  Let the phone keep ringing.  Do not check your text messages like Pavlov’s dog when the alert sounds.  Turn off the television.  Engage in eye contact and repeat what they said to you so they know you listened and understood.  If our kids sense we do not pay attention to them, why would they talk?

DO SOMETHING ACTIVE WHILE YOU TALK:  Throwing a football, going for a walk, or swinging at the park can be great ways (especially with boys) to connect and converse.  They still have your attention, but there is just something about walking and talking….

Because we regularly play the role of dad and mom, we need to redouble our efforts to connect with our kids in conversation.  They need to express feelings and ask questions, but they may not if the foundations of regular communication do not exist.

My son has recently shared some concerns with me on his own, with no prompting and seemingly out of the blue.  I have told him how appreciative I am he asked me and thanked him for trusting me with something bugging him.  I do not believe he would have asked had we not developed our communication skills.

Having said that, I still get “fine” and “no” when I pick him up from school.  And then he turns on the radio.

When do you find your kids most willing to have a good conversation?

“Ts” Of Single Fatherhood – Train

Growing up, my dad trained Brittany Spaniels.  We used them for hunting quail and he competed with them in AKC field trials.  Over the years, we ended up with several national champions and I have rich memories of spending weeks each summer in the White Mountains of Arizona for the trials and countless quail hunting trips.

Photo Credit: vishnubhagat123 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: vishnubhagat123 via Compfight cc

Young bird dogs go through a time of “breaking” where they learn to stay still when a bird flushes from a bush.  As you can imagine, when a bird takes flight, the dog would really like to chase it and catch it.  However, the handler wants the dog to stand still so he can safely take aim and shoot the bird…and not the dog.

We used repetition to train the young dogs.  We also used shock collars to break them from chasing the birds.  Don’t worry, this did not harm the dogs or lead to them needing therapy.

Kids present an entirely different paradigm related to training.  We not only want to “break” our kids of bad habits and rude behavior, but we want to train them in a way that brings out the uniqueness of each of them and encourage them to flourish.  How do we do this?

Generally, moms excel in areas dealing with hygiene, manners, gift-wrapping, and empathy.

Dads usually do a great job training in physical activity, lighting fireworks and right-brained stuff.

Our job, as single dads, requires us to cover all the bases.  And we are not allowed to use shock collars when our kid uses bad manners at the dinner table.

So, how can we set ourselves up to train our kids well?

Seek input from moms.  Find a “mom” who has frequent interactions with your kids and ask them to give honest input about what training they need.  Others notice little things, and some big things, we may have no clue about.  Thank them for the input and seek training tips.

Engage kids in everyday tasks and special chores.  Giving our kids responsibility and compensation will help train them.  I appreciate the context Dave Ramsey puts this in – some behaviors are essential to just being part of the family (clearing your plate, picking up clothes, and other age-appropriate tasks), and others deserve compensation (or a “commission”).  This will both feel a part of the family unit and train them to act responsibly whether they get paid or not.

Consider outside training.  Occasionally, my dad would send a dog off with a professional trainer for specialized instruction.  For our kids, we have Junior Achievement, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, team sports (sportsmanship, playing with others), and many others.  Often, what we have told our kids for months will finally sink in when another adult gives the same instruction.  Frustrating, but a reality.  You and I did it, too!

 What has been the hardest thing to train your kid(s) to do?