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5 Tips for Dads

Posted on: April 24th, 2013

From Father Mark:

Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the
author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was
released by Liguori Publications.  The Catholic Briefcase was voted the Best
Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.  Here’s
a recent article from him that I thought you might find helpful:

Dad, want to throw the baseball?”

Major League Baseball season is in full swing and this is an almost daily request
from my 12 year old son during the week when I get home from work and it is
repeated throughout the weekend.  Depending on the sports season, weather and the
whims of my children, the requests can morph into “Can we throw the football?”
or “Can we shoot some hoops?” or “Dad, wanna ride bikes?”

Translation:  My son is really saying, “Dad, will you spend some quality time with
me?”

Like many of you, I lead a rather hectic life.  I run a small business, have a 15
year old son with high-functioning autism  and am blessed to have a loving wife of
18 years who needs me as well.  Since joining the Catholic Church in 2006 I have
been very involved in various ministries, serving on non-profit boards in my
community and spending time writing books and articles, speaking and fulfilling my
duties as the senior editor of the Integrated Catholic Life.

I want to focus here on the needs of our younger son who is in the ever
challenging middle school years.  Although blessed to be in a Catholic school with
great families we know from our parish community, he still faces the awkward pre-
teen years, exposure to bad cultural influences and peer pressure.  Our son’s
probing questions about his growing knowledge of the “real world” in which we live
require honest answers.  After reflection and prayer, it seems obvious to me that
most parents likely face the same choices as me and my wife.

We can live up to our responsibilities and our vocation as parents.  Our clear
vocation is to help our family get to Heaven.  That is a tall order and requires
courage, hard work, difficult choices and lots of prayer.  None of us are perfect,
but perhaps we can follow these five basic steps to stay on course:

•Make the most of our time together.  My son and I have been having great
conversations on the way to lacrosse practice and when we throw some kind of ball
in our front yard.  The important thing is to maximize every minute with our
children as opportunities to share and guide them to good decisions in life.
Making family dinner time a priority is one way to help make this happen.  Know
that efforts to get our attention are often potential cries for help.  They need
us, but are we available?

•Listen before lecturing.  This is difficult for me!  The fastest way to have my
son clam up is for me to cut him off with a “coaching moment.”  I can coach later,
but I need to hear him out first and encourage him to share his thoughts.

•Be great Catholic role models.  It doesn’t get more basic than this, but do we
realize how often our children are watching our every move?  They will love God,
be excited about Mass and have devotion to our Catholic faith if we do.  They will
likely pray faithfully if we do. They will be more likely to grow up following the
Magisterium and staying out of the “Catholic cafeteria line” if we set the right
example.

•Honor the Sacrament of marriage.  Want to see our children get married and start
great families some day?  Love our spouses and model the kind of marriage we want
them to enjoy.  Show open affection, say “I love you” and make sure the kids know
how much we honor and respect the person we have married.  We are dooming our kids
to a marriageless future or possible divorce if they grow up in a home where the
Sacrament of marriage is not treasured and valued.

•Tune out popular culture and “detach.”  Guess what?  If we are obsessed with
American Idol, buying junk we don’t need and trying to keep up with the neighbors,
our kids are likely to emulate our behavior.  I am beginning to feel that every
minute spent in front of the TV or the computer is wasted time and a missed
opportunity to interact with the family.  This may be the hardest thing on the
list, but we can do a better job with our time and focus.

I feel like being a better parent is a wrestling match that never ends!  This
subject often comes up in my daily prayers as I seek discernment and courage to do
the right things.  The alternative to my daily struggle is to be apathetic which
will virtually guarantee our children, especially our youngest son, will grow up
drifting without a good foundation of faith, values and a sense of what is truly
important in life.  Kids are like clay looking to be formed and developed.  In our
absence, those who only see our children as consumers or who seek to do them harm
will step into the vacuum.  Children are God’s gift to us.  Taking excellent care
of His creation is our gift back to Him.

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