My mother used to call my father The Pied Piper. He needed no pipe, though, to charm children into following him. He just showed up in the yard, and children began appearing like magic. If he had chores to do, he cracked jokes and talked to us while he worked. If he had time for a break, he played with us.
Outdoors it was basketball, baseball, touch football, badminton, sledding, snowball fights or wrestling. Indoors it was table tennis, card games, board games or musical jam sessions.
Dad was our favorite playmate –
Not that he ever confused being a father with being a pal. Dad was the authority, and he held us to a high standard of behavior. When we misbehaved, the fun ended. A one-sentence rebuke from Dad seemed worse to us than a spanking.
“How does a father build good relationships with his children?” I asked Dad once.
“Shared experiences are vital,” he said.
Looking back, I see three ways Dad used to build a strong foundation of shared experiences with his six children.
Dad shared what he loved.
Dad loved music, so when we were driving in the car, he taught us songs and sang with us. He loved God, so he told us Bible stories and brought us with him and Mom to church.
Dad loved learning, so he took us to museums and exhibits. He loved sports, so he took us to see games and played sports with us, helping us work on skills like batting and shooting baskets.
Not all Dad’s attempts to share his interests were successful. None of us took up his offers to teach us carving or woodworking, and neither my sister nor I ever worked up much enthusiasm for sports. But when Dad failed to interest us in something, he just set it aside and tried something else.
Dad observed his children closely to discover their individual gifts and then encouraged them to follow their natural bent.
My sister was interested in art and house design. So Dad encouraged her to take a drafting class in high school even though, in those pre-liberation days, drafting was considered a class for boys only. Dad encouraged our musical bent by gathering the family together for rousing songfests accompanied by me on the piano, Dave on the guitar, Roy on the bass fiddle, and Dad on the mandolin. (Unforgettable.)
Dad did what he could to fulfill his children’s deep desires.
My brother, Thure, was one of the youngest and smallest children in his baseball-crazy class. He felt terrible when the other boys chose up teams, because they always picked him last. Thure let Dad know how much he wanted to be a good player.
So Dad made a point of spending a half hour every day with him working on batting, pitching and catching skills. After about three months, Thure improved so much that when the other boys chose up teams, they picked him first. He went on to become an excellent Little League player.
My baby brother, Lee, wanted to join the boys’ touch football games. Of course, none of my brothers (ages 14, 11, and 7) or their friends wanted to have a 3-year-old on their side. Dad solved Lee’s problem by inventing handicap rules. He decreed that anytime Lee’s team managed to get the ball into his hands, the little guy got an automatic touchdown. This rule transformed him from a team nuisance into a team asset. Then, as Lee’s skills improved, Dad kept adjusting the rules to keep the game a challenge for him and fun for everyone else, too.
I wonder how Dad spent so much time with us. To make a living, he and Grandpa ran a family construction business, which is far more than a 40-hour-a-week job. He was active in church and community organizations, too.
Apparently, Dad made a conscious effort to spend his recreational time with his children. That choice paid off in the warm relationships he maintained with them to the end of his life.
Published in memory of Robert Glenn Cerling who passed away November 17, 2021 at the age of 98
© 2021 Becky Cerling Powers – reprint with attribution only https://beckypowers.com/
For more parenting insights from Becky Cerling Powers, read her book:
Sticky Fingers, Sticky Minds: quick reads for helping kids thrive
Not long after I started publishing a weekly parenting column for The El Paso Times in 1989, I wrote something about our then 15-year-old daughter that embarrassed her.
She protested, and I automatically defended myself. “Everybody who read that knew I was making a joke,” I began.
But then, in the middle of my self-justification, I thought, Why am I defending this? No column is worth damaging my relationship with my daughter, and no column is worth giving her unnecessary pain.
So, I apologized.
And then I gave our three teenagers the right to censor anything I planned to say about them in print. After two of them moved into the dorm at college, I could no longer show them what I had written. So I would read the column draft over the phone or discuss what I planned to convey.
Oddly, they never invoked their censorship privilege. One son even let me tell stories about his potty training!
I knew our kids got teased about their family stories sometimes, but the review policy ensured that they were never caught off-guard. And they told me the kidding didn’t bother them. I had to believe it, because they certainly let me know other things I did that bothered them. (And they still do.)
“Why were they so thick-skinned?” I’ve wondered.
Part of the reason may be that when I reviewed my columns with them before publishing, it did more than merely prepare them ahead of time for being kidded. It armed them with respect. Each time I checked out a potential column with one of our children, I was acknowledging again to them and to myself, “You matter; your feelings matter; you are more important than your mom’s writing career.”
Teasing is easier for kids to handle when they feel secure.
And the hard blows life delivers are less devastating when significant people in their lives, like parents, show them respect. Because showing children respect give the message that they, as individuals, are valuable. They are worthwhile.
Unfortunately, it’s easy (and often more convenient) to disrespect children, to disregard their perceptions and to steamroll over their feelings. It takes hard work, diligence and self-discipline to establish patterns of thinking, speaking, and behaving that demonstrate respect:
Respect for children’s individuality
A friend of mine once remarked that parents need to approach their children with a sense of curiosity and discovery. “Raising children is like growing a mystery garden from God,” she said. “My job isn’t to turn a rose bush into an apple tree. My job is to find out what I’m growing and work with that. If this one is a rose bush, then I need to provide the best possible conditions to grow roses. If the next one is a field of onions, I need to provide what’s best for that.”
Respect for children’s choices
This is hard for me and most parents. Although I know that nothing destroys a parent’s relationship with teens and young adults faster than disrespecting their decisions, I still can’t seem to shake the idea that I know better than they do.
We must struggle against the temptation to try to make decisions for our children, to pressure them into making the decisions we prefer, or to rescue them from the consequences of poor decisions when they need to learn a hard lesson instead.
Children learn to make wise decisions when parents allow them to make choices appropriate for their age from the time they are small, and then expect them to take responsibility for the consequences of those decisions so they learn to avoid mistakes in the future. This takes a lot of effort from parents, but it pays big dividends in the development of self-respect, maturity and common sense.
Respect for children’s privacy
Checking beforehand with our children before I published stories about them was one way I respected their privacy. Other ways were knocking on their bedroom doors (and counting to 10) before entering, reading their mail only with permission, and trying to provide them personal time and space for solitude.
Respect for children’s property
Some parents think of their children as an extension of themselves—like an extra arm or leg. What belongs to the child belongs to them, they reason. I remember a college student telling me how angry he was in junior high when his teacher mother took some of his favorite toys to her classroom for her students to play with.
Teens and parents get confused sometimes about property ownership. Teens’ bedrooms are not their personal property because they are not paying the mortgage or the rent. Just as landlords have the right to inspect – and make rules for – their property rentals, parents get to inspect and make rules for children’s bedrooms.
On the other hand, helping yourself to another person’s property or borrowing things without permission is an act of disrespect, whether or not the person is your close relative. Even if you once gave those things to them as a gift.
Golden Rule Respect
“Do for others what you want others to do for you,” is the Golden Rule that underlies respect.
When we treat our children the way we want to be treated ourselves, and when we teach them to treat others that way, too, we help to establish our children’s personal identities on a healthy foundation of respect.
© 2021 Becky Cerling Powers
Reprint with attribution only
You can find more parenting insights from Becky Cerling Powers in her book
On Sundays… if you want the holiday season to have significance to your children, take time to think and decide what is most important for them. What you are preparing to celebrate? Thanksgiving to God for the blessings of the year? The miracle of Chanukah? The birth of Jesus Christ? Something else? Set priorities and make plans with the reason for your celebrations clearly in mind.
On Mondays…it pays off in peace of mind to remind yourself to be realistic in your holiday plans (and other family planning). So try making two lists: Everything I Want to Accomplish during the holidays and Our Family’s Needs. Then choose three items from each list. Parents Anonymous of El Paso says: “It’s a rule. Nobody can do more than six things.”
On Tuesdays… keep in mind that one hour of satisfying a child’s curiosity about the natural world is worth many hours of formal classroom teaching. Really.
On Wednesdays… make daily pickups part of the family routine. If children spend five minutes (you can set a timer) working as fast as they can on their rooms once or twice a day, the weekly clean up job won’t become overwhelming. The holidays will go more smoothly if you don’t let daily pick-ups slide.
On Thursdays… a child’s spirit needs praise like his body needs food. He must have it. So be alert for acts and attitudes you can affirm. Let children’s praise come from you, not a drug dealer or someone who does not have your child’s best interests in mind.
On Fridays… try to keep children busy with holiday projects instead of screen time. Advertisements are designed to make your children dissatisfied with what they have, so that they will pressure you to buy more things. Discontented attitudes add family stress.
On Saturdays… If you give thanks to God at bedtime for three blessings of the day, it will help train you to look at the positive side of life. Then, as you become alert to your blessings and give thanks for them – preferably out loud so the family can hear you – you’ll be training your family, too. Complaining is contagious, so cultivating a grateful attitude instead helps everyone.
Reprint with attribution only
You can find more parenting insights and reflections from Becky Cerling Powers at her beckypowers.com website and in her book Sticky Fingers, Sticky Minds: quick reads for helping kids thrive
For all the generations seeking God together
Activities for all ages to seek God’s presence by engaging with the Bible in simple, natural ways at home.
© 2021 Becky Powers Offical Site
“One generation shall praise Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts.”