Monday, December 27, 2010

Sometimes You've Got to be The Bad Guy - One of (?)

I was going to title this differently, but I wanted to keep it a family friendly blog, so, it's what I've settled on. Even if you can imagine the other title, it comes down to the same thing though - there are times when as a dad, you have to be the one to take the bullet - to be the bad guy - because if you're not then later on, your kids (and society) will pay the price later.

Really, I could have titled this "Discipline 101" or "Consistency is the Key to Good Behavior" or something along those lines too - but... I'll just tag the post with those keys and move on and actually talk about the topic (which I'm hoping you've been able to divine at this point.)

When your kids are acting up, when they're trying to pull the same stunt they've pulled before, when they're explicitly "working" you or an angle to get around what you believe needs to be done - you cannot allow it. The reason why I call this being "the bad guy" is because to an outsider looking in, honestly it looks like you're being a jerk. I mean, the kid just wants his or her desert, right? What's a few minutes on the end of the day, come on. But see, that's just it. It is what the outsider doesn't see. It's the thing that makes you look like you're being unreasonable. The issue is that you've already set the rules for desert, you've already been explicit with your child on what needs to be done, timing, etc. And you've done it for the 365th day running... and the child *still* tries to do the *same* thing.

This is it now. Time for you to step up. Time to be Mr. Tough Guy. Time to be the uncaring, heartless SOB you're going to be accused of being as soon as the words are out of your mouth. But you HAVE TO DO IT. This is it Mr. Man, Mr. Husband, Mr. Dad. This is the time when all good men need to hold the line, fortify the lines, bar the door. For your child's own good, for your child's future - you MUST.

In my opinion there is nothing harder than this moment. There's nothing harder than looking in your little girl or little boy's eyes and thinking "well, it's just this time" or "is it really going to make that much difference?" At the same time, you know, you know deep in your heart that it does make a difference. You know that it means the difference between being a man of your word, of building a relationship of trust, a relationship where your children know that if you say it - good or bad - then you are as good as gold to delivering. This is where you have to marshall your resources, look directly into that pleading face and follow through on your word. Be. THE. Man.

So, there it is. Sometimes you've got to be the bad guy, but by being so, you'll be the best dad a kid could ever have.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sing With Your Kids

My second eldest was drying the dishes while I was making my breakfast. While drying she suddenly broke out into Good Morning Baltimore - and I joined in. (Note: It helps if you know the song being sung when singing). We had a grand time singing through the verse and then moved on to other songs as well.

Great dads take the opportunities to engage with their kids lives. I'm not sure that too many dads know Good Morning Baltimore, I do because my eldest was in a production of it. So, I took the time to know it. It allowed me to speak with her (and sing with her younger sister) about the production, what it meant, what the era was like. To practice songs and so much more.

Sing With Your Kids is a metaphor, I realize not every dad can sing well. Though honestly, the little ones don't mind so much even if you can't sing well anyway. The point being, if you engage, you get to share in your child's life, and they in yours. True engagement allows you to create the foundation for long lasting loving relationships with your kids.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Wider View of Women Leaders

I have an issue with this article, in fact, the whole premise of the video it points to.

Sheryl Sandberg - a woman in a very influential, if not powerful, position narrowly defines a woman leader to be someone that is (a) in the C suite (or runs her own company) or (b) holds political office. May I just say I find this view to be incredibly narrow? And not just on one level but on two.

I know many women who are leaders. They lead pre-school classes and field trips, they lead PTAs and fund drives, Sunday schools, home schools and manage budgets. They lead and train future generations (both boys and girls) to be upstanding and productive members of their workplace and their community. These women are leaders.

They train their daughters to be smart as they are pretty. They teach them to be independent, to provide for themselves, to choose careers that best suit their aims and goals, to be great girlfriends and wives should they choose to be married. These women are leaders.

I know, that's not "the same" as running a company. Correct. It's even more important. Let me ask you something, how do most political parties run winning campaigns? Right. They start at the grassroots. Interpersonal relationships to build knowledge and understanding of the candidates goals. They start with the individual and build the movement. *That* is what many hundreds of millions of women leaders do every day. It's part of the nurturing nature that's built into women. It's why there is hearth, home and family. It's why nations stay strong, because when they loose that, republics and empires fall.

Ms. Sandberg also fails to consider that the reason why there aren't more women leaders is that, in fact, many women - as a "career choice" - choose to spend time as stay at home mothers. They choose to use their degrees, their knowledge, their education to influence those who are most important to them, those who will carry their values forward - their children. Because of that choice they give up their "career paths" to the C suite because it does not have the same value to them. It's not because they can't do it, it's because they *choose* not to do it.

I believe that every woman should have the equal opportunity to succeed in any career they choose to. I don't know that it is always the case, but I think that if every barrier were taken away, every angle tilted in favor of a women getting a promotion, the percentage would still be skewed. The best jobs I've worked in, I've reported to women. I know they can do great things and any intelligent person can tell you the same thing. It's a question of "want to." And, it's obvious that so far, women don't want to.

Hold your horses - don't go flipping out on me. Anyone remember woman's suffrage? That ring a bell for you? Right. Women wanted the right to vote. Did the old boy network stop them? Damn sure it didn't. And that's just one example, but it serves my point. If women want something they're going to get it. They're smart and capable, and if we don't know that, then we need to open our eyes, and Ms. Sandberg needs to open hers too.

You may be wondering, "What does this have to do with being a great dad?" It has everything to do with being a great dad. As you'll see in upcoming posts, one of the things I believe strongly in is that in order to be a brilliant father, the critical relationship that must be solid, loving and established is the one between husband and wife. If I don't respect my wife as my partner, if I don't think all the things I've stated in the above paragraphs about my wife and my children's mother then my kids aren't going to respect her either. They won't treat her properly and therefore will loose the benefits of a healthy and loving maternal relationship. And so, I would not be a great dad.

Well, as it turns out, I do believe all of the above. I believe my wife is a great leader. I trust her to be home with my children (my most precious treasure) every day. I believe that my wife could run a Fortune 500 company if she choose - she's smart enough. She can and does lead every day. She does team building, motivation, financials and both short and long term planning every day. She's optimizing, scheduling, negotiating as much as anyone in a C suite - it's just that she only happens to be *my* CFO, not some companies.

So, let's not be narrow in our view of what a leader is. My wife is a powerful leader, and she chose to be the powerful leader she is in the place she believed her leadership would be most beneficial. Let's not discount that choice because she's not drawing a salary or working for some 23 year old genius, OK? Her choice of where to lead is as valid, challenging and rewarding as someone holding office or sitting in a board room. We should respect, honor and applaud that choice.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Free Pants With Every Phone!

That's my seven year old's motto as she's making "phones" for everyone (paper flip phones with pictures drawn in the screen and a dial pad - pretty cool I thought). Sure, you might be thinking "but wait, what do pants have to do with phones?" but as a great dad that's not even the question. Let me explain why.

The girl is thinking out of the box. First of all, she figured out how to make the phones. In my day as a kid, I would have had to draw a rotary dial and attached the pieces with a string. My kid? Flip phone for you dad. She covered all the components too. But she didn't stop there, she dreamed up a promotion too. Free Pants With Every Phone. Brilliant! No, I didn't ask her why, she thought it was a great idea though - and for all I know, maybe it is. Oh, and the "pants"? Well, those were paper too, they were also *designer* pants - we the rest of the family members didn't get the same pants I did.

This dads is creativity at it's finest. If you want to be a great dad, then let your kid create. Let them go wild with ideas. Don't worry that it may not connect the dots with "reality" all that well - how are we to know what reality is going to look like when our kids are 30? Heck, I don't even know whats coming down the pipe for next week. Be a support for your young child. Don't worry, there will be plenty of time as they get older to sooth hurts, help to set expectation based on their skill sets and the like. While they're young though, let them dream because you never know where that dream may take them.