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ďIf you let other people tell you who you are, who are you when they stop talking?Ē
Think about who you are and how you got to be that person. How you define yourself resonates with the experiences you had growing up. The things we were taught, we teach others; thatís how our lives are measured. Itís like washing your hands after using the bathroom, no one would expect you not to do that, but how many times have you seen men leave the urinals, walk out to greet the world without washing their hands. For some of you, this might sound nasty or ridiculous. For some of you who have never been called on it, it might be an eye-opening event. All itís really about is someone taking the time to share about growing up, being a man, having good manners. Generally something youíd expect a dad to do. Itís about a man teaching a boy how to become a man.
As we approach the Lenten season, there are things that we are often asked to Ďgive up.í I look at this season at what I can do differently. As Iíve recently reflected on things I could do to orient my life differently as a father, it came to rest on rituals. Going to the bathroom for whatever reason becomes a ritual when you consider what you do when youíre done. Washing your hands when youíre done should be a ritual. Children model their parents. Similarly a ritual that has lost some of its punch, but nevertheless reflects positively on families is the family dinner.
According to Columbia Universityís ďThe Importance of Family DinnerĒ report, those teens that eat dinner with their families at least five nights a week as opposed to just two nights a week are nearly one and one half times more likely to say that their parents are proud of them; 40% are more likely to confide a serious problem with their parents, and 50% of the parents are more likely to say they know their childrenís friends.
Itís just a ritual. You might wonder what they talk about at the dinner table. Discussion includes school and sport, friends, current events and family issues. The report says teens would also like to talk about religion, curfews, peer pressure and dating. Itís an open forum in your own home.
This particular report also addresses behavior and its impacts on education. As President Obama recently commented on the importance of reaching out to our young men, the dinner table is one place to start. Itís a ritual that needs to be revered for its successes. The children who eat more regularly, five times versus two, are 18% less likely to use alcohol and four times less likely to use tobacco. They donít do this because they know it their parents would disapprove. The 5-timers are more likely to get Aís and Bís 64% vs. 49%.
Itís more than a simple ritual. Itís an idea that resonates with children today, and itís a simple thing to practice. Rather than going to the local fast food place, sitting down with your children can change their lives and yours, as 18% of teens have less stress. You can tell them whatís important. You have an opportunity to tell them to put away their cell phones. You have an opportunity for them to get to know who you are by what you say and have it come back to you.
Many times we think we know whatís important. As men, especially fathers, we think we know what our family needs without asking them. We go to work. We provide a roof over their head, food on the table, and a warm place for them to sleep, but we forget to ask them if thatís enough? Our biggest stumbling block is the blinders we put on by thinking we can fix everything, particularly when some things donít require fixing, they just require us. The Associated Press MTVís 1997 Youth Happiness Poll for ages 13 Ė 24 pointed out family is the number one thing that makes teens happy. With 20% of this group listing this at the top, followed by friends [15%] and spouse [11%]. Their top heroes were Mom [29%], Dad [21%] and parents [16%].
The evidence is compelling that tells us, dads, we are important. We simply need to understand the value of who we are regardless of what the media, angry divorced dads or our angry exes tell us. We need to continue to the dialogue with our kids, create rituals nd tell our kids to wash their hands before leaving the bathroom.