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52 Things Kids Need from a Dad

By Chris Carpenter Program Director - Being a dad.  It is what so many men aspire to be.  But sometimes, after the children are born, new dads wake up one day thinking, ‘What did I get myself into?”  Cute and cuddly babies become demanding school age children, and then, gasp, teenagers from another planet … or so you think.  The romantic notion of being a dad has evaporated into begging God for the patience to make it through another day of parenthood.

Author Jay Payleitner doesn’t think it has to be this way.  In his book, “52 Things Kids Need from a Dad”, Payleitner suggests that God designed fatherhood to be a joy, blessing, and a blast. Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Payleitner to discuss the most important thing a dad can do to earn the respect of his children, what he can do to help kids develop into responsible adults, and how the 27th Psalm can play an important role in being a father.

A simple question to begin.  Why did you write this book?

Guys don't read books. They can read, though, a little. They can take this book and put it in the smallest room of their house and a couple of times a day go and spend a few minutes with it.

The focus of this book is to provide a year’s worth of ideas, or one per week, to grow closer to your children.  Some of these are quite interesting.  Let’s highlight a couple starting with “Carry a calf for a day.” What is that all about?

That goes back to that idea of consistent parenting. Can you imagine, there's so many fathers of teenagers, who can't even walk into their 15-year-old’s room. There's like this invisible force field, because they're not welcome there. They haven't been in there for so long; and the longer you wait, the tougher it is. But if you tuck in your two-year-old, every two-year-old wants to be tucked in by dad, then you can tuck in your three-year-old. That means you can tuck in your five-year-old and your eight-year-old. In other words, Dad is there every night.  So the idea of carrying a calf is an old story. Think of a farm boy, a teenage boy. There's a new calf born, so he picks up the calf, puts it on his shoulders and walks from the corn crib to the barn and back. He could do that, right, because he's a strong strapping young man. Well, if he can do that one day, then certainly he can do it the next day. How much can a little calf grow every day, right?  So if he does that one day and does it the next day, and he does it the next day, and pretty soon he's carrying an 800-pound cow on his shoulders. Which, of course, is the opposite of truth, and it won't happen. But the idea is, “Dad, we have to be there every day.” If you carry the calf every day, then suddenly you're doing amazing things.

You have another chapter in your book called “To Make a Pair of Homemade Stilts.”  Please share what this means.

A lot of the old dad books would say go build a birdhouse with your kid.  If you want to build a birdhouse with your kid, that’s great.  Years ago we used to go dumpster diving. We still live where they are building new houses in new subdivisions. And where they build a new house, you go diving in the dumpster to see if there's any good wood. I came out once with two long kind of 1 by 2s. I wasn't stealing wood; it was scrap wood. And so I said let’s go make a pair of stilts. And so we did that. It was like this amazing thing that by accident I found this thing, and we made a pair of stilts. The kids were just about, maybe, 8 or 10 inches taller than they were, but suddenly a couple of things: it's something they can use. It's something you can do in the short period of time. It's cheap. Dads, you can go to the library and look it up and teach them to do decimal system or go online and search for wooden stilts. There's all kinds of ways you can do that. And the blessing is that for a moment, when they are on the stilts, they're looking you right in the eye. And you get a taste, a glimpse of the future; and it's probably worth me finding what my take-away there is. The big take away for stilts is make the stilts. Dad, just go and make a pair of stilts.  It's together time and you come away with something.  You create a memory at the same time, it's easy and it's cheap.

What's the most important thing that a dad can do to help his children develop into a productive member of society?

It's more about building their character and integrity than it is about training them for that moment, because every kid is different. The evidence of fatherlessness leads me to believe that the most important thing a dad can do is just be there. Because if you are there, then you're there to guide, and to challenge, and to question, and to tickle, and to wrestle, and to rescue and to be the hero and sometimes be their friend, be the authority figure. So if you are there, and you care, and have even just a modicum of common sense about you and some spiritual roots in your own life, if you would just be there than it's going to rub off automatically. If you're not there, how can it?

Let’s flip that question around. What's the worst thing a dad can do to hinder the development of his children to be productive members of society?

You're going to mess up. Every dad messes up. You need to be able to say, “I messed up, would you forgive me?” Because suddenly, then you're building a relationship. You’re not building a wall. You're building a relationship with your kids. Listen, we're in this together. You do need to be an authority figure. So the question is what's the worst thing you can do? It is to build this wall of, “We're not in this together.”  Because you are in this together. There's an old principle that don't let your children know that they’ve disappointed you. Or don't let them know if your kids do something that frustrates you, don’t let them see that, because then they know they have power over you then. You've heard that thing?  But that's wrong. When your kid frustrates you or disappoints you, it's like, oh, son, man I love you, but I'm disappointed right now. You're breaking my heart.

What's the best way for a dad to earn the respect of his kids? It's one thing to be there all the time, but how do you foster this on a consistent basis?

By anticipating their needs in this regard. The first time you change a diaper you didn't have the wipes here, they were across the room. So, have the wipes there. When you move to a new neighborhood, check out the schools where your kids are going to go before hand, before you buy the house. When you have a middle schooler—every middle schooler has a project that they tell you about seven o'clock Sunday night, “Oh I’ve got to do this poster for something.” Have some poster boards and crayons in your office or in the back of your closet. If you anticipate their needs, then suddenly they know they can trust you. They know they can’t trust you, if you're getting angry all the time. If they spill their milk, “What’s wrong with you? I told you two hands! ” Suddenly, again it comes back to that wall. But the respect is very closely related to trust. They need to trust that you're going to meet their needs. It's impossible to spoil a kid under a year old. All they're doing in that first year of life is they're learning to love, and they're learning how to be loved. That's it. That's all they're doing here. Everything else comes later on in the practical part of life. If you're teaching the kids that they can trust you and that you're going to take care of them, and you're going to hold them tight and not let bad things happen to them, and then they trust you, then they will come to you. And that leads to that idea of respect like, “Man, my dad is going to keep his word. He's going to be a promise keeper. He’s going to be someone I can count on.” That’s respect right there.

What's been the driving force for you to become such an advocate for dads and issues related to fathers?

Because some dads don’t seem to get it. In my mind, it's so obvious. Just be there, hang out, enjoy your kids. You can tell by Psalm 1:27.  The great psalmist starts, “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor.” It's kind of an esoteric concept. In between, does it say children are a burden from the Lord? No, it says children are a gift from the Lord. Children are a gift from the Lord. They are a reward from Him. We shouldn’t stop there, because the next line is, “Children born to a young man are like arrows in the hands of a warrior.” And what a great image that is of sharpening. The kids are arrows. You sharpen them. You help them fly straight and true. You pull them close to you. You pull the bow back and let them fly towards a target that you choose, that you helped choose for them. And the next line is, “How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”

After people read this book as an author, what do you want them to get out of it? What do you want them to take away from it for life application?

Being a father should be a blast. It should not be a burden. And son of a gun, the Bible has things to say and often if you do what the culture is saying, it's probably just the opposite. It's the old upside down world. More than ever what the culture is saying is just about the opposite of biblical truth. So those are the two things; and just be there for your kids.

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