My Dad’s Formula for Being a Father

 

My dad playing guitar with my older broteher. My dad enjoyed sharing his music with us. We knew all of his songs and sang them with him.

Born in a share-cropper’s shack, the son of a third generation Mexican American, and a descendant of Scots, Irish, British, French Moravian and Cherokee settlers, Daddy never had a formal education, was never famous and certainly wasn’t materially wealthy, but he was a huge success in one area, an area where so many of today’s men fail—he was a fantastic father. My Dad’s formula for being a father was simple:

1. Be there.

2. Feed your kids.

3. Protect your kids.

4. Guide your kids.

5. Love your kids.

BE THERE.

Daddy lived with us. He ate dinner with us every night and talked to us. I know that’s not possible for every dad but having a physical, present, adult male who is vested in you enough to come home and spend time with you makes a child feel–wanted and accepted.

When a father walks away from his kids or is never present, the child may feel devalued.  As a teacher, I’ve listened to a lot of children’s stories and I know this to be true. It is a painful thing when a child says, “My daddy doesn’t want me  anymore.” I’ve seen a lot of anger in a lot of kids, especially little boys, when they feel their dads don’t value them. Oftentimes, they have no way to release that anger and no one to show them what it means to be a man in today’s world.

That doesn’t mean that kids who grow up without fathers can’t grow up and fair well, but it’s a whole lot harder. I personally think that if your child’s father is absent, then enlist the help of a grandfather or a trusted uncle or some other stable man who can influence your child in a good way.

FEED YOUR KIDS:

Daddy worked—hard.

He brought home a paycheck, which he promptly handed over to Momma, and then he baby sat us while she got groceries. His checks weren’t always enough to meet our needs, so he also hunted, fished and foraged for edibles in the woods.

Now, I know that these days most people aren’t hunting and gathering, but the point is–a good father makes sure his kids can eat. That may be holding down a job, that may mean watching the kids so his spouse can work. It never means being a man-child, irresponsible and becoming another mouth to feed without contributing to the survival of the family.

PROTECT YOUR KIDS:

My dad stood up for each of us on multiple occasions whether it was confronting the schoolboard over equity or hunting down the pack of wild dogs that threatened our safety.

But he protected us in more subtle ways, too. It was my dad who came to pick me up when I got sick at school and who was there when the pony fell on me in the creek.  My dad burnt the motor up in a car while trying to get my brother to the hospital when he nearly cut his arm off and my sister to ER when she burned herself. And it was Daddy who chewed tobacco and put it on our bee stings, tackled a nest of hornets that had taken up residence on the porch, ensured our flu was in working order, sealed our roof from leaking, kept our vehicles running and safe. The list just goes on.

A good father lets his kids know, “I’ve got your back.”

GUIDE YOUR KIDS:

My dad  believed a person’s character was what defined them, not the shade of their skin or the amount of money in their bank account. He believed that a person should be nicer at home than in public, that family was more important than business, friends, or acquaintances. He guided me in these values by allowing me to watch him in action, by simply living what he believed.

……….RESPECT

He taught me about respect by the way he interacted with my mother. He couldn’t provide her with loads of material things, but he honored her and was kind to her and she to him. They had authentic conversations. As a child I listened as they disagreed and even argued on some things until finally, they reached a consensus.

No matter how heated the discussion got, they never belittled one another, demeaned one another, called each other names or talked trash about each other to us kids. They never triangulated us or used as manipulation tools against each other. And, no matter what, one truth remained, their love for each other and for us was more important than who was right.

When you decide to do what’s best for everyone involved, motivated by love and appreciation for each other, more than you care about who’s right, arguments tend to work themselves out without ugly drama and violence.

………IMAGINATION

Through his ability to dream and his excitement over new ideas he taught me that it’s better to attempt and fail than to never attempt at all, that it’s okay to think outside the box (or be oblivious to the box in the first place.) Daddy had big dreams and childlike excitement that was contagious.

…….ENGAGEMENT

He guided me in tangible ways, too. He taught me to bait a hook, to hunt, to scale a fish, to fertilize the soil, to ride a bike, to build a fence, to preserve meat in a smoke house or a saltbox, to store corn for the winter, to make a bridle, to ride a horse, to recognize a tree by its leaves, to forage the woods for food, to split wood and to rick it. In doing these things, he spent time with me and that communicated something else to me—he valued me.

…..DISCIPLINE & INTEGRITY

While my dad was not a strong disciplinarian, he was a consistent one. He had his moral code and he stuck to it. He didn’t impose a lot of house rules on us but he did expect us to work. We had chores. He insisted on honesty. Making a bad choice usually didn’t get us into trouble. Lying about it did. When we went somewhere he wanted us to have manners. Stealing meant we were returning it, admitting what we did and apologizing. He never punished us but he did discipline us. Even when we were “in trouble” with him, we knew he still accepted us and valued us.

LOVE YOUR KIDS:

Daddy would often say, “If you ain’t got love, you ain’t got nothing at all.”

He never read that book on Love Languages, yet he spoke all of them fluently.

He spent quality time with us. Daddy didn’t do elaborate things with us. We couldn’t afford elaborate things. So, he ate supper with us every night. He told us stories at bedtime. He watched television with us, and we talked about the programs we watched. He went on walks in the woods with us. He planted flowers with us. He got down in the floor and wrestled with us. He told us jokes and sang to us. Daddy went exploring with us.

My father had little money, yet he managed to give gifts to us and rendered acts of appreciation/service to us. He whittled toys for my brothers and jewelry from cedar for my sisters and me. He went spelunking and brought cave rocks home. He constructed a beautiful flower garden from them for all of us to enjoy. He built a homemade swing set in the front yard out of 100 year old Maple trees, a long pole, and hemp rope.

When I was very young, he brought a chihuahua-pug home in his coat pocket. He set it in the playpen with me. I kept that dog until he died when we were both fourteen. Every year when I had my birthday, my dog had a birthday, too.

Daddy never withheld words of affirmation and touch either. He wasn’t critical, even when he was correcting me. He somehow knew that you could correct a child without demeaning the child or verbally humiliating the child.

I always knew that it was okay to hug my father. He never turned us away when we needed a hug and there was never a day that he didn’t say, “I love you,” to all of us at least once and there were seven of us kids. He would usually say it at bedtime. He’d sit at the kitchen table drinking his nightly coffee and having one last cigarette. We’d all come around and give him good-night hugs and exchange ‘I love yous’ then off to bed we’d go.

We often had cousins in the house. Years later an adult cousin said to me, “I was so jealous of you when we were kids. Because every night your daddy said he loved you. My daddy never said that to us when we were little.”

APPRECIATION FOR FATHERS:

I realize that we live in a different world now, a different time, a more ‘selfie’ kind of time. But the components of being a successful father haven’t changed. A successful father will still be present, feeding his children, guiding his children, protecting his children and loving his children.

I’m thankful to all of you who are fathers that provide, protect, guide, and love your children. Thank you. My dad would be proud of you.

 

 

 

The Secret of Educating

 

My friend, Pam, knew the secret of educating. She used to speak of educating the “whole” child.

She was one of those teachers that took kids out to play no matter the weather, so they could get fresh air in their lungs. She took them on field trips and stopped at nice restaurants where they had to go in, sit down and order from a menu, because some of them had never had that experience. She wanted them to experience culture.

She exposed them to plays and songs from around the world. She had them participate in the Hefer Project at Christmas rather than exchanging gifts, because she wanted them to experience the joy of changing a life rather than simply receiving another gift.

Soft-spoken and intellectually gifted, Pam was unconventional and always, above all else, an advocate for her students. She went toe-to-toe with superintendents, board members, policy makers, lazy co-workers, and anyone else who wanted to put their government policy, personal agenda, pocketbook, comfort or ideas above the welfare of her students.

Pam understood the secret of educating, one to which many people are oblivious.

So, What IS the Secret to Educating?

A person is a tri-part being and each part is made up of multiple systems. To truly educate a child, you have to address the needs of their body, soul and spirit.

A human being is like my three-legged Art easel. If I don’t stabilize all the legs, the whole thing falls over. I give the legs that stabilize a person the following names; they are body, soul and spirit.

Leg 1: The Body

Keeping a healthy body is important to learning.

Exercise helps a child’s mind to grow.

The body is the physical vehicle that carries us from place to place in this world. It requires nutrition, exercise and rest. It is made up of many systems, parts and organs.

Without proper rest, nutrition and exercise, it lags and malfunctions. If a child is hungry, it’s hard to learn. If a child is being beaten at home, it’s hard to care about Math at school. If a child is sick and in pain, it’s hard to pay attention during Reading group time.

So, children need to be fed nutritious meals. They need to go outside, to run, walk, climb and play–everyday. They need to go to sleep at about the same time each night, without an iPad, iPhone, television or computer readily available. I can’t count the kids I’ve had through the years who couldn’t stay awake at school because they had a television in their room and watched TV all night! The light from electronic devices can hinder sleep, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN!

Leg 2: The Soul

Music is Vehicle for Educating the Soul

Music Helps the Soul to Grow

The soul, like the body, is comprised of numerous parts and systems. I will focus on three: the minds, personalities, and emotions. Without going into lengthy detail at present, suffice it to say that the soul is created by the union between body and spirit. It is our sense of self in this world.

Like the body, the soul must receive food, exercise and adequate rest. Food comes in the form of emotional validation, mental stimulation and personal inspiration.

The mind needs problems to solve, things to figure out. It needs challenges that it can work through and overcome. However, a continuous onslaught of taxing, stressful problems can become emotionally overwhelming. There needs to be some stability in a child’s life.

A long stream of school activities that ignore the child’s background, belittles or slights their cultures, etc., sends the child a subconscious message that they don’t matter as much. Growing up as a child from a socio-economic challenged family myself, I know from first hand experience that when the teacher always calls on affluent children to run errands, pass out papers, empty the pencil sharpener, fill the teacher’s coke machine, etc., that it sends a message to the “poorer” kids that they just aren’t quite as “good as” and aren’t as deserving. No teacher that I know of does this on purpose yet I know that it is done, because I experienced it. There has to be some stability in a child’s life. A child’s life structure doesn’t have to be strict, simply consistent and reliable.

King Solomon once said to train up a child in the way he/she should go and when he/she is old they will not depart from it. In the original Hebrew that denotes something more akin to “teach a child in the way that he or she is naturally bent, nurture their natural gifts and talents….” So often we try to fit every child into the same mold, ignoring the differences in cognitive inclinations and preferences.

This is where cognitive personality types come into play. We can not teach all children like cookie cutters. We can’t just teach to the children whose personalities click with our own. It’s WELL WORTH studying cognitive mind types. If we understand that the little girl whose mind is so far out that she gets lost on her way to the bathroom is an INFP, we might discover a way to help her with Math. If we understand that the drama queen is an ENFP, then we might realize that drama is a fundamental key to helping her with her Science.

This can also go into the emotional realm of the soul, as well. If we understand that Tommy is an INTP, then we might help him through the bullying issues that he’s facing. Who knows? We might prevent a future catastrophe by reaching out to the whole child. In my opinion, if we work in education or counseling, in ANY capacity, it behooves us to understand (at least on a rudimentary level) a little bit about cognitive personality types, not in a way that tries to fit people into a job mold, but in a way that helps us understand how they might perceive and process knowledge, emotions and events. I personally believe that the Jungian Cognitive Processes and the Theory of Multiple Intelligences are excellent, as is Cynthia Tobias’s The Way They Learn.

Emotions are a part of the SOUL of a person. Children who are emotionally distraught of stressful situations at home will be hampered in their learning. When kids are constantly belittled by parents, relatives or other children their learning is hampered. Emotional and verbal abuse can be crippling in a child’s mental and psychological development.

A kid who just saw his dog hit by a car may need time to rebound. The kid whose parents are going through a divorce may be hurt and angry, the kid with the baby sister in a wheelchair, the one whose brother was burned in a fire, the one who was just kicked out of his house or taken away and put into foster care. The list goes on.

The Spirit

The Spirit is that part of us that is Eternal.

The Spirit is that Part of us that is Eternal.

Let me first make a disclaimer, realizing that this may not resonate with some people. The spirit, to me, is very real. It is that part of us that is not bound to time and space, that transcends the physical and exists after our bodies expire. I’m not alone in my belief that there is a part of us that is eternal, that has always been and shall always be. Billions have in the past and currently believe in a spirit realm, in life after death and that we do not end when our bodies expire. The Spirit is the life-giving force that animates a body and carries with it, after exiting this temporal existence, all the experiences gained through the body and soul, but with full knowledge and understanding. The spirit is that eternal part of us that transcends time and space. So, how do you educate a spirit?

  1. Be fair–equity does not equate to equality. Do what each child needs, not just what fits across the board.
  2. Be kind–even when you discipline, let there be kindness in your heart and in your voice. Children listen to your tone far more than to your words. They may forget what you say, what you do, but they NEVER forget the way you make them feel about themselves. When I ask people which teachers they remember they always mention the ones who made them feel happy and loved.
  3. Be forgiving–if a child makes a mistake today, don’t remind them of it tomorrow. Don’t keep hanging it over their heads until they feel they are “bad” kids.
  4. Be merciful–realize that human beings, especially kids, make lots of mistakes. They misunderstand lots of things. They are not tiny adults. That’s why they need you.
  5. Be understanding and empathetic–and listen to them when they talk to you! One of my co-workers is so loved by her students, not because she’s the best Math or Reading teacher, but because she LISTENS to them.
  6. Be joyful–young spirits pick up on your joy and if it’s there, they know. If it’s not, they know.  A seventh grader recently asked me why so many people become teachers who apparently don’t even like kids. I told him I’d been asking myself that for decades now! Trust me. KIDS KNOW WHEN YOU ENJOY BEING WITH THEM AND WHEN YOU DON’T.
  7. Be encouraging–never put a child down, not even in teasing. Find something positive about every child and highlight it.  When a child does a good job, even on a small thing, let them know.
  8. Be loving–which means allow them to know you appreciate them, you value you them. I know one educator who calls all of her students, Friend. I know another who uses the term, Wonderful Ones, with her class.
  9. Be honest–if a child asks you a question, phrase it so that it’s on their level but tell them the truth.
  10. Choose to discipline, not punish. Discipline is a form of love. Notice I said discipline, not punish. There’s a huge difference. Discipline speaks to the spirit and seeks to empower a student to be the best version of himself or herself. Punishment wearies the soul and wounds the spirit; it causes a child to feel like they are a “bad” kid.

If we want our children to grow up to be all they can be, then we must learn the secret to educating and that secret is to recognize and teach the WHOLE child–body, soul (intellect, personality and emotions) and spirit (that eternal part that responds to the laws of the spiritual universe–empathy, compassion, forgiveness, joy, love, patience and mercy.)

*Darlene Franklin-Campbell holds a Masters in Education and is a veteran teacher of over twenty years. She is currently an Art teacher but has taught self-contained multi-age classrooms, Latin and Spanish to fifth through eight grades, self-contained third grade and fourth grade, self-contained first grade, music and creative writing. She has worked both in private and public education, speaks three languages, has served as an English Language Learner liaison, a translator, a site-based council minority representative, and is involved heavily in Indigenous cultures of North America, working to preserve languages and customs. Darlene has spent countless hours researching cognitive development and preferences. She has been previously certified through the Association of Christian Schools International and is currently certified through the Kentucky Department of Education. 

 

 

Color an Ocean of Peace

“Art Teacher,” Bobby calls out, “Jimmy just hit me and said my picture is ugly.”

“Jimmy, why did you hit Bobby?” I ask.

“Because” Jimmy says, “he’s not coloring the ocean blue. The ocean is supposed to be blue. I told him to color his water blue and he won’t listen.”

“So, you got mad?” I say.

“Yes.”

“And you hit him to make him do what you wanted him to do?”

“No, it wasn’t like that. He’s not doing it RIGHT. The ocean is supposed to be blue.”

“So, Bobby is coloring his picture of his world differently than you think the world is supposed to look?” I say, “And you don’t like the way he sees the world because it doesn’t match the way you see it, so, you got mad at him and tried to make him do it the way you think it needs to be done. You hurt Bobby because you wanted him to make his world your way? Is that what happened?”

“Ugh,” Jimmy says, “Yes, I got mad because he ain’t doing right. And he won’t listen to me when I try to tell him the right way to do it.”

“And how is that hurting you?” the teacher asks.

“But it’s supposed to be blue!” Jimmy is clearly upset that anyone could see the ocean as green, black, and purple instead of blue.

“And how is that hurting you?” I ask again.

“But…oceans are blue.”

“Your ocean is blue,” I say. “Bobby’s ocean is multicolored. What if you color your world and Bobby colors his world and you don’t try to force Bobby’s world to look just like yours? Then you will both have a better day.”

“I want you to make him do it right,” Jimmy says sullenly.

“Do you want to be right or happy?” I ask.

Jimmy and Bobby both look at me, confusion etched across their little faces.

I explain. “I’m not going to force Bobby to color his ocean the way you want it to be. However, if you insist on being right, and hitting Bobby because he made a choice that’s different than yours, then you are going to find yourself in a very unhappy position,  or you can accept that Bobby is different than you and that it’s okay for other people to see the world differently, mind your own business, color your own ocean and have a peaceful, happy day. The choice is yours. So, do you want to be right or be happy?”

Jimmy thinks hard for a moment. Letting go of the need to be right is tough. Then he says, “I’d rather be happy.”

Bobby pipes up, “Me, too. I like to be happy.” He proceeds to draw a purple sun in the sky.

Jimmy visibly cringes, but he chooses to be happy, at least for now. He hasn’t seen Sophia’s spotted, flying unicorn fish yet.

………………………………………………………………………………………

The Secret of Peace

Jimmy’s teacher is trying to let him in on a secret. It’s the secret of peace. If we want peace in our lives, then we must stop trying to control the actions of others.

No wonder Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” That doesn’t mean we go around settling arguments but that we facilitate inner peace. Outer peace without inner peace is impossible.

The secret to having outer peace in the world is more people with inner peace!

As adults, we are not so different than Jimmy, concerned about what someone else is doing. Perhaps, it would be good if we could learn the lesson Jimmy’s teacher is trying to teach him. We don’t need to control others and the only actions we are ultimately responsible for are our own.

Ironically, we can see the tiniest faults in the behaviors of others yet neglect to see similar things in ourselves. Jesus once responded to some critics by saying they had the ability to see a speck of dust in someone else’s eyes but couldn’t see the giant beam sticking out of their own.

If I had a quarter for every time a child has come up to me and reported on the affairs of others in hopes that I would “punish” the other child, I think (maybe playfully) I would be as rich as Elon Musk! It seems to start early, this need to control others, even when those actions have nothing to do with us. Kids will often say things like, “Make them let me play with their toy.” Or, “Make them play with me.” Translation: “Do what I want YOU to do and MAKE THEM behave the way I want them to behave.”

Sadly, this desire to control and punish others often doesn’t end when childhood ends. It just graduates and grows bigger and instead of making someone give up their toy or play with them, the controllers want to dictate how others should live their lives. They want to invade neighboring countries, take over their resources and control their populations.

How much pain and suffering in the world would be alleviated if world leaders didn’t try to make other countries conform to their wishes?  If they didn’t invade and seek control? What if everyone in the world were truly empathic? What if we realized our Connectedness?

Peace on Earth

When Jesus was born, the angels spoke to shepherds proclaiming peace on earth, but of course, the world hasn’t been at “peace” since that time, but in the biblical sense, peace doesn’t mean the absence of war. It means inner tranquility, staying calm regardless of what others are doing or saying. In other words, inner peace is only found when we let go of the need to control others.

Just as Jimmy isn’t justified in dictating how Bobby colors or one child isn’t justified in forcing others to play, we are never justified in wanting to control the feelings and thoughts of others.

It’s far too common and too easy to focus on the negative aspects of others, to talk bad about them and try to make them behave the way we want them to, but it’s a losing battle and in the end, we accomplish nothing but destroying our own peace of mind and happiness. I once heard a very young minister named Randy (who knows? Maybe he is reading this post right now!) say, “You can’t legislate morality.” He was right. Kindness, goodness, empathy, joy, love….those things must come from the inside out and be voluntary. If you force people into, it’s not real and sooner or later the sleeping demons of self-righteousness, greed and power will awaken.

LET IT GO!

Peter, an early follower of Jesus, wrote, “Do not repay injury for or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay injury with kindness, because to this you were invited so that you may obtain adulation. For whoever would take pleasure in, long for, and enjoy life (both physical and spiritual, present and future) and experience good days must restrain his language from injurious and their lips from treacherous (deceitful and harmful) speech. They must cease from doing injury and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.”

Likewise, Paul, also a student of Jesus once told a group of Thessalonians who were in The Way to aspire to live quiet and peaceful lives, to mind their own business and work with their own hands.

A passage from Psalms keeps going through my head:

46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The words “be still” there denote a “letting go” or “falling into.” In other words, as Elsa says in Frozen, “Let it Go!” The word “know” means to recognize, get it, or understand.

So, we could put it in the modern vernacular, “Let it go! Relax, and recognize…” What are we recognizing? We are recognizing that I Am God. Which God? The I AM. And what are we recognizing? The fact that I Am is God! And what ever you need I Am is. Nothing is impossible with I Am God. Nothing.

Peace comes when we let go and relax in the knowledge that the Almighty Source of all that is or has been or ever will be is in control. Peace comes when we realize that a person’s life-worth doesn’t consist of our possessions, or what color we paint our oceans.

Stillness and tranquility set things in order in the universe.

Dyer, Wayne W.. Living the Wisdom of the Tao (p. 93). Hay House. Kindle Edition.

 

But the muddiest water clears

                           as it is stilled.

And out of that stillness

life arises.

Dyer, Wayne W.. Living the Wisdom of the Tao (p. 33). Hay House. Kindle Edition.