Tag Archives: The Power of Dadhood

The Harder You Work, the Bigger the Snowman (Michael Byron Smith)

As we prepare for the winter season, Michael Byron Smith has some great ideas about how families can share the best of cold-weather times with their children. This article, “The Harder You Work, the Bigger the Snowman,” comes from our archives.
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There is no school equal to a decent home, and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.

Mahatma Gandhi

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithIt starts around October. People, almost exclusively adults, start complaining about the onset of winter. I understand their point of view. Their focus centers on being cold, dealing with icy roads and often dreary weather. I don’t like those things either, but not enough to worry or complain about them.

Few of us have to be in the cold air longer than it takes to walk from our toasty car to our toasty home or office, at least not often. Slippery roads are a nuisance, but where I live in the Midwest, there may be only 10-15 days all winter when the roads are seriously snowy or icy for part of a day. In more northern states, they really know how to deal with their more frequent snowy days and they do it efficiently. There isn’t much you can do about dreary days, but I’ve seen dreary days in every season. With those realities said, I believe any adult that doesn’t like winter has the right to complain about it or move to a warmer climate. But it is also my opinion that children who are raised in areas that have seasons are advantaged in experiences and learning.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithNow I admit that winter comes in last in my list of favorite seasons. Spring, fall, summer, then winter is how I rank the seasons. But I LOVE seasons! In winter, I thoroughly enjoy watching the snow fall while I sit by a fire. And there is certainly beauty in winter if simply a red cardinal resting on a branch with a snowy background.

One of my favorite sensations ever was at my farmhouse in the country, waking in the morning after a heavy snowfall had blanketed the earth the night before. The wind was completely still in the bright morning sunshine. I walked outside and it was the most profound silence I have ever experienced. It was as if the snow had muffled every possible sound, except the squeaky sound of my boots sinking in the snow. The scene was truly a Norman Rockwell painting.

I accept winter and look for those experiences that only winter can provide. This brings me back to children. You rarely hear them complain about winter. They pray for snow and run around outside so much they don’t get cold. When they come in, a little hot chocolate will put the exclamation point on a fun and memorable kid experience. I have many memories of playing outside with friends, coming in with my hands so numb that the cold water from the tap felt warm, and I loved it!

You can join in the fun with them. Have a snowball fight or take them on a hike in the woods. The exercise and cooler weather make it comfortable and invigorating with views no longer obstructed with leaves. And you can sneak in a few life lessons occasionally using tricky little metaphors that may stick with them longer than a boring lecture.

Teachable Moments in Winter
The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithBuild a snowman with your children. Maybe you can have a competition for the best snowman. The teachable moment may be, ‘the more you work on your snowman the bigger and better he will be–just like anything else you will ever do’. But working hard isn’t the entire answer to success. You have to work smart also. It’s impossible to make a good snowman with very dry snow, even if you work very hard at it. With a little patience, a warmer sunny day will melt the snow wet enough to be able to build your snowman. The teachable moment: Patience and smarts will often save you a lot of time and effort with better results.

Go sledding with your children. Find a nice long hill and feel the thrill of zooming down. If they want to ride down again, they will have to trudge up the hill. The first ride down is free, after that they will have to work to experience it again. Going down is easy. Going up is work! The teachable moment: Nothing worthwhile is really free. There is always effort required by someone. The only ones who sled down for free are those that don’t have the strength and need the help of others to get back on top. Which of those would you rather be?

Not only are there life lessons to teach, but there are science lessons that will be remembered when they are in school. Take your children ice skating. Skating is best when there is very little friction, allowing them to glide effortlessly. But when they need to stop, they want some of that friction back so they dig into the ice. Friction is like fire. It can save your life or ruin it. How people use it makes all the difference!

Some history lessons can be best expressed in the winter. The strength of our forefathers and ancestors can be demonstrated, when there were no furnaces to warm them up with a push of a button; or when their home was a teepee or mud hut. No snowplows helped them out. Grocery stores were rarely nearby and food had to be grown or hunted. Traveling for just thirty miles would take half a day or more and the only heat was from the horse if you were lucky enough to have one. Not until one thinks about how tough conditions were for others in the past will they understand and appreciate the fortune they have today.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithBut maybe the most important of all these moments, whether you stop to teach or not, is to be actively engaged with your children, having fun, creating everlasting memories, and making connections to them that will serve both you and them forever. I already mentioned a couple of winter activities, but there are others you can enjoy with your kids including baking things together, movie nights, reading books, crafts, snowball fights, going to sporting events, and so much more.

Take advantage of every opportunity
I wish everyone a great winter season! Make the best of every day no matter the season, and never miss a chance for a teachable moment for your children. And for you older folks out there who hate winter, just think about how fast time passes for us! It’ll be spring before you know it; the recent contrast of winter causing it to be even more appreciated. I can almost see the tulips and crocuses popping through the ground already. Another teachable moment! ###

Article and photographs by Michael Byron Smith, author of The Power of Dadhood [website]
“Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog

 

A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love (Michael Byron Smith)

Michael Byron Smith shares how his single-parent mom kept her family together through difficult times, how he managed to keep a promise and fulfill a dream, and why mentoring is so important today. We present, “A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love.”

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A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron Smith)How a child is raised has an undeniable impact on his or her success and happiness. Everyone would agree with that, but many ignore it anyway.

Occasionally, children raised in a stressful or unloving atmosphere achieve while others, raised in the same atmosphere, or even in a seemingly ideal situation, do not. However, I think most experts agree, with little doubt, that having two savvy and involved parents is a huge advantage in the mental health of a child. Children without that advantage can succeed, but they will struggle more than necessary. I lived this scenario and I’ve seen others in my family both fail and succeed, but the successes have been far fewer.

Big Job for a Ten-Year-Old

As I turned ten years of age, I was in a situation that required me to babysit my five younger siblings. My father was absent and my mother had to work to support us. She was only 27 years-old with six children to feed. My youngest brother was not even a year old. Thinking back on this is a frightening picture; back then, it was normal to me!

It wasn’t every day that I had to do this, just on occasions when nothing else would work out for my mother. My memories of these days are not totally clear. What I do know is that my father abandoned us. Where he was in the world at that time I do not know. Where and how he spent his earnings, other than on alcohol, is a mystery. But more mysterious to me is how a person could abandon his young children.

Some may think my mother should have never left us alone, but she was without alternatives. I don’t know how she got through the pressures of being a single mom with a tenth-grade education. All I do know is she did not abandon us and worked to exhaustion to raise and support her children.

Not surprisingly, a ten-year-old placed in charge of his brothers and sisters doesn’t get much respect. My eight-year-old brother would challenge me and aggravate everyone else. My five and three-year-old sisters were typical little girls getting into stuff and fighting. My two youngest brothers were a two-year-old toddler and a baby under a year old. Basically, I was there to keep them from injuring themselves or each other; I’d call Mom if someone got hurt badly.

Why am I writing this, exposing my family’s dirty laundry? It is obviously not to brag, nor am I asking anyone to feel sorry for us, but to share a story of hope. Hope, however, needs action – mostly our own action to meet our challenges head-on. It is up to each individual, but many kids don’t know what to do, or how to do it.

I don’t know where we lived when I was ten because we moved quite often, and I didn’t have many childhood friends. Because of this, I was much more comfortable around women than men. Being a shy, skinny, and often new kid, I was like shark-bait to the local bullies common in poorer neighborhoods. My self-defense plan was invisibility, staying indoors or peeking around corners before proceeding. It wasn’t even close to an ideal upbringing.

Tough Beginnings Mean Extra Work

Needless to say, this was not the best start for any young person. The difficulties my siblings and I experienced pale in comparison to the challenges too many young people suffer. But preventable struggles, like struggles caused by my father’s parental neglect, should never happen.

How did we all do coming out of this situation? Beyond the challenges all kids face as they mature, we all had extra demons to defeat, some struggling with those demons more than others. We’ve had teen mothers, a lack of a high school education, truancy, poverty and some minor drug and alcohol use, with following generations dealing with some of the same problems. Of the six of us, three extended families are doing well, while three families are still struggling to one degree or another.

Fortunately, I did not have any of the problems described above, but I did have others. The most challenging to me was a serious lack of confidence in myself. I believe my five siblings also suffered from this and other psychological issues. I broke out of this cycle of despair more successfully than my siblings because of two things: 1) a promise I made to myself and, 2) a dream.

The Power Of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithThe promise was to never be poor! Not to be rich, but not to be poor – an error I will discuss later. My dream was to be a pilot, a dream of many young boys. But in my case, it was more of a passion. I knew that I would have to do it on my own because I didn’t know how to ask for help. Mentoring was not something of which I was aware, and being shy didn’t help. Certainly, someone would have mentored me had we stayed in one place long enough. (I apologize immensely to those I have forgotten who did give me help and advice, especially my many teachers.)

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Being a mentor is a wonderful way to help anyone who could use advice or guidance! My book, The Power of Dadhood, is, in fact, a mentoring book intended to teach fathers to how to mentor their children. It may be obvious, by now, why I wrote this book.

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My dream of being a pilot seemed so distant, like a star in another galaxy, but I kept my focus. This dream supported my goal of never being poor. It is amazing what one can do when they have a dream as a goal backed up by a promise. I also had two distant people that I looked up to: Jack Buck, the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jimmy Stewart, my favorite actor and a US Air Force pilot himself. I admired their values and personalities. Never was there a bad word said of either, not by anyone I would respect. It was to my benefit to invent my own mentors because everyone needs role models and teachers.

A Dream, a Promise, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron SmithI succeeded in my keeping my promise and achieving my dream. I have never been poor since the moment I graduated from college. I also became a US Air Force pilot and loved every part of that experience.

But it wasn’t easy! The required steps to make my dreams come true were demanding, but not really the issue. The toughest hurdles in this journey were the exaggerated and fabricated hurdles I put upon myself, thinking I was not worthy! The hurdle of self-worth will also cause one to underestimate their potential. I should have had a goal to be rich; instead, I just hoped to not be poor. I’m doing very well but what if……?

In Closing

My message here is two-fold. The first message is that anyone with a dream can overcome obstacles. That is a common theme of encouragement, but your self-imposed obstructions are the first and most important to overcome. There is no need of having a fifty-pound dead weight on your back when you’re climbing Mt. Everest. This or any other test in life has its very own challenges to conquer and that extra, unnecessary weight could cause you to fail.

The second message is the desperate need today for parents and other mentors to help young people grow. Having proper mentoring and a decent childhood atmosphere will help a child avoid unnecessary burdens. A much easier and effective way to be successful, of course, is to not have those extra burdens in the first place. Children raised in a good, nourishing home will have a head start because their lives have been streamlined, not encumbered with self-imposed friction and speed bumps. If the number one factor in a successful life is self-reliance, a very close second would be the way one is raised and mentored.

I challenge parents and all adults to be aware of the needs of the young people around them. Your help and guidance will save them from being an adversary and/or an obstacle to themselves. It just takes a kind word or a bit of attention. ###

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website]. He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable? (Michael Byron Smith)

How do we identify and instill confidence and determination in our children? Author Michael Byron Smith offers insights into positive change. We present, “Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?”

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Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?, Michael Byron SmithIf ever there were two heavyweight fighters in the world of self-development, they would be called CONFIDENCE and DETERMINATION. Looking at these two characteristics as a parent, which would you emphasize for your child?

Certainly, anyone who has both of these characteristics will likely become whatever they choose to be. However, a child may have confidence but not determination, or vice versa. And if only one exists, which would be best to have?

Having confidence will make life and its challenges appear easier to attack, allowing one to charge ahead with little reticence. On the other hand, having determination will give one a voice shouting encouragement in their ear: “Keep going–keep going”!

Of course, we want our children to have both characteristics and to use them wisely. If they have one of these attributes, we concentrate on the other. But getting back to the question, if they are weak in both, which would you choose to emphasize–confidence or determination? Before we choose, let’s consider the traps that exist in both confidence and determination.

The Challenge of Confidence

Confidence can trick you. It can prevent one from preparing properly, or from trying hard enough. Too much confidence can defy your true abilities and displaying it can put off others a bit. Confidence is best worn on the inside showing through, not draped callously upon your personality.

I discuss confidence in my book, The Power of Dadhood:

Self-confidence can be nurtured by introducing your child to challenging experiences, such as hiking the Grand Canyon, cleaning a fish, or joining a drama club. Kids become self-confident when they get over the fear of the unknown, when they overcome an inhibition, and when they accept that they don’t have to be good at everything, because no one has ever been good at everything.

The challenge must not exceed their capacity, or their confidence could diminish. Nor should you mislead them into falsely thinking they’ve achieved a significant success when it was too easily attained. Success does build confidence, but success built on sand will not contribute to your child’s confidence in the long run. Confidence gained by easy victories can be shattered by reality.

It may not be wise to convince your children that they are great artists or athletes if they will be judged more honestly in school or by friends. A more realistic view will not set them up for a fall, a fall from which recovery could be difficult. But, of course, praise any real talent and encourage any talent that shows promise.

Confidence works both from within (how you feel about yourself), and from without (how others see you).

Determination: ‘Intend’ is a stronger word than ‘Can’

Determination is a great characteristic to possess. It can, however, be brutal on your overall happiness. Your determination can make you go off in directions for all the wrong reasons. For example, it’s not good to be determined to get even with someone. Nor is it good to go after a prize or be vindictive just because you want to prove a point. Determinism must have properly chosen goals. While misplaced confidence has the most failures, misplaced determination has the most stress.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithOnce again, from The Power of Dadhood:

Knowing you ‘can’ makes your intentions that much easier, without all the gut-wrenching anxiety. However, many people can, or think they can, but never do. People with a can-do attitude have their wheels greased, but they have no engine if they have no intent. If we Dads and our children have both the engine (intention) and the grease (confidence), we have what we need to move forward. Not only can we get somewhere, but we can get there with little friction.

‘Determination’ is the backbone of persistence. ‘Determination’ can help you to focus and to overcome a lack of confidence.

Which is it?

So, if your child needed both confidence and determination, which would you choose to emphasize? In my experience, if you’re not confident, then at least be determined and confidence will come. If you’re not determined, your confidence is like pajamas—comfortable as you lay around. What saved me was my determination! I was not confident about becoming successful, but I was determined to be so. I was, at the very least, determined to improve my situation in life, that being the only thing about which I was confident.

Although you can nurture a child to have confidence, you can’t let them wallow in it. Again, that’s when having determination can help. Push them when you have to be on task. It’s how the military gets many of their recruits through basic training. That’s how the voice in your ear does its job, telling you to “keep going”! Mantras are voices at work, expressing through repetition what you want to achieve. When a goal is met with your determination, an increase in confidence will follow. You can ask any graduate of basic military training, any mountain climber, or any Olympic athlete.

There is no wrong answer to my question because we will always want to encourage our kids to have determination, and nurture them to have confidence. Vince Lombardi once said, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” Confidence can be with you one day and gone the next, but with determination, one will bridge those gaps. Never stop encouraging or nurturing either characteristic. That’s what makes a mother a mom, and a father a dad!

And someday, you may hear these precious words: “Because of you Dad, I didn’t give up!

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website] He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

How Parents Can Instill a Thirst for Learning (Michael Byron Smith)

Michael Byron Smith, The Power of Dadhood, Helping Fathers to be DadsHave you ever witnessed the look in a child’s eyes when the light bulb comes on? Adrenaline rushes in the moment he or she understands something which once puzzled, frustrated, or mystified them, accompanied by a great boost to their confidence. These moments are so important because success always begets more success. However, a child will have few opportunities to feel that rush or become more confident if not properly challenged intellectually. Let’s look at how parents can instill a thirst for learning.

photo by Michael Byron SmithBy challenged, I mean being introduced to new things which have to be studied to be understood. To a toddler it could be putting shapes in similarly shaped openings. As they mature, it could be building their own shapes, or houses, or cars with Legos and Lincoln Logs. Learning, like infinity, never ends. Experiencing it, like infinity, you may need a rocket ship. Parents can be rocket ships for their children for there will always be new discoveries to be found, studied, and conquered.

The stars of our galaxy are a wonderful way to stir the imagination. It could be explained that the North Star, the Big Dipper or other constellations helped early travelers find their way. Chemistry sets and microscopes are great tools to learn science, such as how to make slime or crystals, or how to see microscopic objects invisible to the naked eye. Each step of learning advances a child to a higher level of knowledge and a stronger desire to learn more. And don’t forget to take your kids to the local zoo or science center! Better yet, teach them about animals before you go. They will be fascinated.

I remember how astonished I was when I learned I could measure the exact height of a tree without climbing to the top and dropping a tape measure from the top branch to the ground. It was simple trigonometry. By finding a point away from the tree where the top of the tree was at a 45-degree angle from the ground, I knew the height of the tree was the same as the distance to the tree. I then wanted to learn more ways trigonometry worked to solve more mysteries.

Photo by Michael Byron SmithI haven’t even mentioned to greatest tool to a child’s imagination, that being reading! Reading to toddlers, or even babies fascinates them. They see the writing and the pictures and know they are related. Even the comfort of being on your lap and having your attention relates reading to being safe and loved. What better way to introduce a child to learning. As they get older, children want to be able to translate a written string of letters to understandable thoughts and descriptions, just like mom and dad can do.

Late Starts in Learning Can Be a Terrible Burden
But what about the child who is never read to, not to mention never having a learning tool like a chemistry set with simple experiments any parent can teach. They are left unaided to stimulate their imaginations which become a distinct disadvantage compared to their peers, those who have had loving attention and mentoring. Even though some children are born with more active imaginations than others, every child will be helped by outside stimulation. And although their schools are a key place to stimulate the imaginations of kids, the real joy of learning is discovered in the years prior to formal learning. Not surprisingly, it is the parents who are the key parties in challenging their children during these early years.

Very important in raising more than one child is to understand their different paces in learning and varied interests. Some kids will be more challenging than others, but they must not be compared. You want to challenge the fast learner and the slow learner at different rates but with similar degrees of challenge, i.e. where they will succeed, but not too easily. When over challenged, kids will get frustrated and want to quit. If under challenged, kids will be bored and disinterested in moving forward.

photo by Michael Byron Smith, parents are key teachersIf you are lucky, your child will find a passion. A child with a passion is like putting them in cruise control towards their love of further discovery. They will be driven by their interest and not by your prodding. With a passion comes a desire to learn more and more. A passionate child will more often live in the moment and not brood about the past or future.

The Dry Sponge Theory
Lastly, remember this when your child complains about not quite understanding a subject in school. Have him take the next higher level course and while he may struggle again, he will look back at the last level with more understanding. For instance, let’s say your child struggles with multiplication. If they graduate and then learn algebra, it follows that when she looks back to multiplication, multiplication won’t seem as difficult any longer.

I call this the ‘Dry Sponge Theory.’ (I discuss it in more detail in my book, The Power of Dadhood: Become the Father Your Child Needs.)  A dry sponge absorbs quite a bit of moisture. However, when a sponge is totally wet, it won’t absorb anything more. A larger sponge will have room for more absorption. Taking algebra makes your learning sponge for multiplication bigger, allowing a capacity for more understanding. It follows that no one is an expert at the level they are studying. They become experts at a level two or three steps lower than where they are currently studying. For instance, sixth graders would be considered experts in fourth-grade subjects…and so forth.

Michael Byron Smith, The Dry Sponge Theory

Your kids may not be convinced of the ‘Dry Sponge Theory’, but hopefully you will be convinced to push them forward. The ‘Dry Sponge Theory’ works similarly for topics that may bore your child like Art Appreciation or History. They may not become historians, but their learning sponge will have increased in size and, therefore, in capacity. Other topics will fall more easily into place. I am convinced of this.

Summary
Parents are key teachers in the most important early learning years–when the sponge of a child’s brain is insatiably thirsty. Introduce interesting things to them. Challenge them. Make learning fun and look for a passion that may pull them forward. And finally, if they aren’t passionate about learning, keep pushing them. Knowledge and the thirst for learning are so important for their futures! ###

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithArticle and photographs by Michael Byron Smith, author of The Power of Dadhood [website]
Helping Fathers to be Dads blog

 

The Harder You Work, The Bigger the Snowman (Michael Byron Smith)

There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.

Mahatma Gandhi

It starts around October. People, almost exclusively adults, start complaining about the onset of winter. I understand their point of view. Their focus centers on being cold, dealing with icy roads and often dreary weather. I don’t like those things either, but not enough to worry or complain about them.

Few of us have to be in the cold air longer than it takes to walk from our toasty car to our toasty home or office, at least not often. Slippery roads are a nuisance, but where I live in the Midwest, there may be only 10-15 days all winter when the roads are seriously snowy or icy for part of a day. In more northern states, they really know how to deal with their more frequent snowy days and they do it efficiently. There isn’t much you can do about dreary days, but I’ve seen dreary days in every season. With those realities said, I believe any adult that doesn’t like winter has the right to complain about it or move to a warmer climate. But it is also my opinion that children who are raised in areas that have seasons are advantaged in experiences and learning.

Cardinal in WInterNow I admit that winter comes in last in my list of favorite seasons. Spring, fall, summer, then winter is how I rank the seasons. But I LOVE seasons! In winter, I thoroughly enjoy watching the snow fall while I sit by a fire. And there is certainly beauty in winter if simply a red cardinal resting on a branch with a snowy background.

One of my favorite sensations ever was at my farmhouse in the country, waking in the morning after a heavy snowfall had blanketed the earth the night before. The wind was completely still in the bright morning sunshine. I walked outside and it was the most profound silence I have ever experienced. It was as if the snow had muffled every possible sound, except the squeaky sound of my boots sinking in the snow. The scene was truly a Norman Rockwell painting.

I accept winter and look for those experiences that only winter can provide. This brings me back to children. You rarely hear them complain about winter. They pray for snow and run around outside so much they don’t get cold. When they come in, a little hot chocolate will put the exclamation point on a fun and memorable kid experience. I have many memories of playing outside with friends, coming in with my hands so numb that the cold water from the tap felt warm, and I loved it!

You can join in the fun with them. Have a snowball fight or take them on a hike in the woods. The exercise and cooler weather make it comfortable and invigorating with views no longer obstructed with leaves. And you can sneak in a few life lessons occasionally using tricky little metaphors that may stick with them longer than a boring lecture.

Teachable Moments in Winter
Build a snowman with your children. Maybe you can have a competition for the best snowman. The teachable moment may be, ‘the more you work on your snowman the bigger and better he will be–just like anything else you will ever do’. But working hard isn’t the entire answer to success. You have to work smart also. It’s impossible to make a good snowman with very dry snow, even if you work very hard at it. With a little patience, a warmer sunny day will melt the snow wet enough to be able to build your snowman. The teachable moment: Patience and smarts will often save you a lot of time and effort with better results.

Go sledding with your children. Find a nice long hill and feel the thrill of zooming down. If they want to ride down again, they will have to trudge up the hill. The first ride down is free, after that they will have to work to experience it again. Going down is easy. Going up is work! The teachable moment: Nothing worthwhile is really free. There is always effort required by someone. The only ones who sled down for free are those that don’t have the strength and need the help of others to get back on top. Which of those would you rather be?

Not only are there life lessons to teach, but there are science lessons that will be remembered when they are in school. Take your children ice skating. Skating is best when there is very little friction, allowing them to glide effortlessly. But when they need to stop, they want some of that friction back so they dig into the ice. Friction is like fire. It can save your life or ruin it. How people use it makes all the difference!

Some history lessons can be best expressed in the winter. The strength of our forefathers and ancestors can be demonstrated, when there were no furnaces to warm them up with a push of a button; or when their home was a teepee or mud hut. No snowplows helped them out. Grocery stores were rarely nearby and food had to be grown or hunted. Traveling for just thirty miles would take half a day or more and the only heat was from the horse if you were lucky enough to have one. Not until one thinks about how tough conditions were for others in the past will they understand and appreciate the fortune they have today.

But maybe the most important of all these moments, whether you stop to teach or not, is to be actively engaged with your children, having fun, creating everlasting memories, and making connections to them that will serve both you and them forever. I already mentioned a couple of winter activities, but there are others you can enjoy with your kids including baking things together, movie nights, reading books, crafts, snowball fights, going to sporting events, and so much more.

Take advantage of every opportunity
I wish everyone a great winter season! Make the best of every day no matter the season, and never miss a chance for a teachable moment for your children. And for you older folks out there who hate winter, just think about how fast time passes for us! It’ll be spring before you know it; the recent contrast of winter causing it to be even more appreciated. I can almost see the tulips and crocuses popping through the ground already. Another teachable moment! ###

Article and photographs by Michael Byron Smith, author of The Power of Dadhood [website]
“Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog

 

The Power of Dadhood (Interview with author Col. Michael Smith)

BTSpotlightIt’s not unusual for a book to have a back story. Sometimes it’s told; sometimes not, but often that story is the driving force behind a book. I’m betting Mike’s story will warm your heart as it did mine. We were fortunate to have this opportunity to visit with Mike and learn of the circumstances and events that influenced his growth and, eventually, his excellent book. –JDS

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Mike, in your book you talk about the struggles you and your family experienced when there was no father in the home. Did these experiences have an impact on the writing of The Power of Dadhood?

 

MSmithphotoExtremely so! Every child is impacted differently when they are raised in a dysfunctional home. It could be anything from mental struggles or out-of-control behavior to excessive shyness. I think our family experienced the entire spectrum. Beyond the social inadequacies and lack of direction that are inevitable, there are special experiences that happen too infrequently–of togetherness, loving moments, and memories of happiness.

As my siblings and I grew into adults, I could see the dysfunction continuing into the next generation for too many of us. There wasn’t a model of effective parenting to follow, nor were there the tools of a proper education, moral direction or mentorship.

The troubles my siblings found themselves in were predictable. That’s when I decided that the prevention was a much better way to handle social problems than correction. Most social issues are the result of father absent homes. I wrote The Power of Dadhood to teach fathers what they can do to avoid the pitfalls children can plunge into if not mentored by loving and knowledgeable parents.

 

Did you write the book from a collection of thoughts and ideas that had been “brewing” over a long period of time, or did the theme and direction of the book come together fairly quickly?

 

It was a slow process. Over time, I saw the consequences of a disengaged father lasting into adulthood and into the next generation. Already my grandnephews were fathering children in their teens without solid educations or relationships. What could I do? My original thought was to write about being an involved father to pass on to my extended family and their children. I couldn’t make them read it, but I could write it in hopes that they would.

MSmithbookPrior to being a book, my fathering project began as a collection of thoughts, ideas, things that worked as parents for me and for my wife, Kathy. Kathy taught me so much from her work as parent educator specializing in mentoring young teen parents. I also read many parenting books and although there was so much useful information in these books, I realized that most young men would never pick them up. If they ever tried to read them, they would likely not connect because of the often academic or complex language. From that, and all the years of work I was putting into this as part-time endeavor, I thought a simplified parenting book could be useful to others beyond my family. I stepped up my goal to write a book written in simple terms to encourage and teach fathers how to be dads. I focused on fathers for two reasons. Fathers are usually the missing or uninvolved parent and I was a father myself.

 

Did you have a sense of closure when the book was finished? If so, tell us about it.

 

The closure comes so slowly. The joy of the accomplishment is like icing a cake more than popping a champaign cork, sweet but not dramatic. Seeing the physical book, however, was a thrill! But the real closure is not the finished book. The real closure is getting the book out to those who could use its advice. I’m still working on that one!

 

In spite of the difficulties you experienced in your early years, Mike, you graduated college, became a pilot in the Air Force where you achieved the rank of full colonel, and you had a successful career as a civilian engineer. None of that happened by accident. A lot of kids in similar circumstances would have given up under a ton of excuses; you didn’t. How do you account for how it turned out for you?

 

I think I was lucky to have a dream and a goal. My dream was to be a pilot. My goal was not to live how I had been raised. My mother was so very supportive, but all she could do with little education and six mouths to feed was to encourage and love me. My dad was the foundation that was missing. He never invested in his family but he still had emotional influence.

My success was not without a lot of pain, mostly self-inflicted. My obstacles were the pain of competing without confidence, and a feeling of being an outsider among others who seemed to have their act together. I made many mistakes but saving characteristic was to keep moving towards my goals. My hard work and persistence allowed me to get a full academic scholarship to a great university which was the help I needed.

I often tell young people without means to study hard and get good grades, and scholarships will be available. The answer I often get is, “Not everyone is like you Mike!” I don’t know understand that excuse! I am not special in any way other than having a dream and accepting the struggle to get there. Don’t be afraid of struggle. It is the badge of honor when earned success comes to you.

 

What would be the greatest compliment someone could pay you on The Power of Dadhood?

 

To hear these words: “I have learned and been encouraged so much from your book, and I will keep it by my bedside as my children grow.”

 

What advice would you offer young people today, especially those that are struggling?

 

It’s important to accept that you must take the incentive to find answers to your struggles. People, books, and actionable steps are there for you if you choose to look for and accept them. My book for dads is one of the countless tools that are out there to help. People help others who are helping themselves. As an example, let’s say you run out of gas while driving. When you are pushing your car to a nearby gas station, others will come help you push. But if you sit in your car by the side of the road, you will not get anywhere soon.

 

How is retirement going? What are you doing today, and what new projects are there for Michael Smith?

 

Retirement is great! It has allowed me to wrap up my many years of work on this book as a rookie author. I have time for grandchildren and a flexible schedule. I am, however, busier than ever as I take on things I never would have had I been working. My wife and I have traveled quite a bit. I have done a lot of work on my second home, a farmhouse in Missouri wine country, and we watch grandkids two days a week. The only downside having written this book, and it is a small one, is that it is always in the back of my head. I’m constantly looking for ways to make it known, and working with the Changing Behavior Network has been one of the joys. But promotion is difficult, time consuming, and it can be very expensive per book sold. I doubt I will ever have a monetary return but that was never the goal. If I could get 10,000 copies out there and not lose a small fortune, I would be a very happy man!

 

In addition to being a retired Air Force pilot and the author of the new book, The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Needs, Col. Michael Smith is a husband, father and grandfather dedicated to helping fathers to be present and involved dads through his blog, “Helping Fathers to be Dads.” [website]

 

 

7 Tips for Dads to Remain “Flavor of the Month” (Col. Michael Smith)

BTAboutThemDads are in the envious position of being like ice cream. What kid doesn’t like ice cream?

Ice Cream-001After a book signing, we took my two-year-old grandson to an ice cream parlor and got him a bowl of ice cream. It was supposed to be the kiddie size, but they accidently gave him a larger portion. He scooped up that vanilla fudge swirl like it was going to vanish before he could finish. When he took the last bite and stared into the empty bowl and said, “Put …more…in there.” I laughed, his mom and dad laughed, and we gently told him, “That is enough for now.”

Ice cream comes in a lot of flavors and so do fathers. Whatever flavor of father you may be, you are your children’s favorite! Unless, of course, you give them a colossal reason not to be–and it would take a colossal reason. Children are programmed to love their parents just like they seem to be programmed to love ice cream. The only difference is loving their parents is a much more healthy act.

MSmithphotoKids that never have ice cream, or the love of a father, don’t know what they are missing. They only see that other kids enjoy both and wonder what it is like. They are robbed of something very sweet in life.

Men that give up on fathering cheat not only their children, but themselves. The love, the smiles, the hugs are what you will recall the most. And seriously, it is not difficult to be a good father. Of course there are difficult times to go through, but that is where the satisfaction comes in, by working though issues and helping your child become a success in life.

Seven Tips to remain the “Flavor of the Month!”
Here are seven tips to help any man be a caring father. These are tips from my book, The Power of Dadhood, and I am expanding on them here. Any man who is aware of and accepts these important aspects of fathering will have no trouble being the flavor of the month, every month!

1. Neither he nor any other father knows everything or ever will. We do the best we can in every situation and should do what most dads won’t do: ask questions, read up, keep working at it.
2. His mistakes must not discourage him. Who doesn’t make mistakes? As I said in a recent article, “Success is a series of mistakes interrupted by persistence.” Never quit teaching out of frustration or fear of failure.
3. His actions are being observed. This is where you must have great awareness. Your actions speak so much louder than words! You can’t be the same man with your kids around as you may be with your drinking or sports buddies. Have principles you live by and teach through action.
4. He must be consistent, loving, sincere and available. This may be tip numero uno!
5. Humor will be an ally. Be fun to be around! I talked to a 56 year old woman last week who told me she was afraid of her dad. I didn’t take that to mean she respected him. I saw in her face that she was afraid to be herself around him. Joke around and be silly sometimes and watch your kids run into your arms.
6. His children must experience struggle (supervised, if possible) to learn and grow. As dads, we should never solve our children’s problems for them. We should teach them the skills and resilience to solve them on their own, while we look over their shoulder.
7. Every child is unique and learns differently and at a different pace. One size does not fit all, not when raising more than one child. Some need a push; some need reins; some need more attention at certain times than the others. Never compare your kids because they all have different strengths. One may run faster, but the slower one may read faster. Rewards and consequences could very well be different for each child. A young child with a slight impairment may be cheered more openly and loudly just by taking simple steps whereas the child without the impairment would not get the same attention for the same achievement.

Summary
Yes, dads are like ice cream. But different from ice cream, when a child says, “Put …more…in there,” you don’t say, “That is enough for now.” Unless, of course, the dad is being seriously silly that day! ###

 

MSmithbookIn addition to being a retired Air Force pilot and the author of the new book, The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Needs, Col. Michael Smith is a husband, father and grandfather dedicated to helping fathers to be present and involved dads through his blog, “Helping Fathers to be Dads.” [website]

The Power of Dadhood (Guest: Col. Michael Byron Smith)

BTRadioIntOne of the greatest challenges of society today is the “reconnection” of families. Solid and reputable research has shown us that, as two-parent, married-couple families have declined, there have been corresponding increases in poverty, ill-health, educational failure, unhappiness, antisocial behavior, isolation and social exclusion of many children and adults.

MSmithphotoIt is the consensus of many that these issues are rooted in the lack of structure in the family. Most often, father absence is both cause and result of family dysfunction.

These problems are not going to repair themselves. Our guest on this program, Michael Byron Smith, believes that now, more than ever, fathers must be present and engaged with their children if the family is to function as it should. Michael understands all too well the impact of a physically or emotionally absent father.

Fortunately, Michael brings to this program some thoughts and suggestions for how fathers can connect and better connect with their children. In fact, he will share with us how the “Seven Characteristics of a Successful Father” can help all dads become more present, more loving and more nurturing with their children. It could well be the most important task they will ever accomplish, as it stimulates the growth and character of their sons and daughters.

MSmithbook(Be especially mindful of the end of this interview when Michael shares “What Every Dad Should Teach His Children.”)

Michael is a retired Air Force colonel and former military pilot. He’s also a retired civilian engineer for the US government in the aerospace industry. In addition to being the author of the new book, The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Needs, Michael is a husband, father and grandfather dedicated to helping fathers to be present and involved dads through his blog, “Helping Fathers to be Dads.” (29:47)

http://www.michaelbyronsmith.com

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