Archive for April, 2010

Quotes & Notes: 3 Keys to Aiming Your Child Toward Success

April 25, 2010

Proverbs 22:6Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (ESV,Pr 22:6)

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How many times have you heard this verse used in the context of raising your children?  If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 100 times.  This is one of the most common recited verses from the bible about child rearing.  However, if you’re a parent that currently has a child that’s rebelling, this verse loses it’s “punch”, and may make you wonder about other bible verses.  Let me take a few minutes to unpack this verse and then share three things that have helped my wife and I in our parenting that I think are important for you as a parent to keep in mind when you look at the totality of raising your children.

>  The word “train” actually has the connotation of “dedicating” as in the dedication of a house.  It also includes the idea of  setting aside or narrowing.  The Egyptian word that is closely aligned to the Hebrew word translated train in this passage carries the meaning of “setting up something for divine purposes”.  So, this word could be read, “Set aside your child by dedicating, preparing and training him in the ways of God”:

  • Key #1:  Remember that children are a gift from God and are really on loan to us as parents.

Our first responsibility is to model for them what it means to “dedicate ones life to God”.  First and foremost that means to pray for them, over them and with them as we dedicate them to God.  Dedication is an offering of something for divine purposes.  As such, our children our divinely meant to be aimed toward a lifetime of loving and knowing God.  It’s hard to give them something we don’t have.  If our lives aren’t characterized by an authentic searching and following after God (don’t read as living perfectly), it will be very challenging to aim them correctly from the start.  It doesn’t mean that all is lost if you are late in parenting from a biblical foundation, it simply means that the chances of having our children wander off course is greater than if they had been instructed in God’s Word from early on in their life.  Yet, even then, there are no guarantees of them following the path that has been laid out for them (see Key #3)

>  The phrase, “In the way he should go”, has been used in many different ways.  Some translate it to mean in the way they are skilled or where they have interest.  But the literal meaning of the word translated “way” seems to carry the notion or meaning of a path or journey.  “Should go” is literally, according to the mouth of, or in accordance with what a superior says.  So, one way to say this is that there is a path or journey a child is meant to take as the son of a father who’s following the Lord (it is written by Solomon).  There are right and wrong ways to turn in this life.  This word also carries the notion of “aiming” or “bending” the bow.

  • Key #2:  Setting an environment to aim your child in the instruction of the Lord.

When our children were young we listened to a lot of people who had children that were older than ours and whose children seemed to be heading the right direction in life (and were fairly normal :)).  We also listened to FamilyLife Today and Focus on the Family to get biblically grounded advice on raising children.  My wife and I are certain we haven’t done it perfectly.  And, we know that we’ve done things that are likely to mean counseling sessions for our kids at some point :).  But, one thing I can say with certainty and by God’s grace, we did raise them to seek after God and point them toward Him.  They are at ages now that require them to own that relationship and not rest on “mom and dads” faith relationship with God.

>  The Proverb shares that if we do the first two things that our children won’t depart from that when they are old.  Yet, I’ve known more couples than I would ever have imagined who raised their children in this way, and their children are not in a close relationship with God.  If this is a biblical principle, how come it doesn’t work all the time?:

  • Key #3:  This is a Proverb of wisdom, not a promise that it will always be the result.

From “The Bible Knowledge Commentary”, A proverb is a literary device whereby a general truth is brought to bear on a specific situation. Many of the proverbs are not absolute guarantees for they express truths that are necessarily conditioned by prevailing circumstances. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (1:953).   When I first heard this, it really helped free me from the pressure of the result to focus on the things that I as a parent could do.  I can do the first things in the Proverb.  First, I looked at my foundation as a follower of Christ.  (remember–you can’t give what you don’t have).  Second, we made time to share God with our kids through memorizing scripture (trying to make it fun) and reading them stories and discussing them with practical applications to their lives.  We were also careful about what we allowed them to watch on TV,  but did spend time explaining things from different perspectives so they weren’t “sheltered” from the world completely.

Bottom Line:  Parenting is a challenging endeavor in the best of circumstances.  Unfortunately, we are almost never given those kinds of circumstances.  There are things we can do as parents and then, most of the rest is out of our hands.  In fact, even what we can do is from God.  Remember, it’s never too early or too late to pray, love and lead your children in an appropriate way according to their age.

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DadPad: Orphaned-Abandoned-Hopeful

April 22, 2010

You will not usually see those three words in the same sentence or phrase.  Yet, for Rob Mitchell, it’s his story.  My wife and I had the privilege of meeting Rob for dinner where he shared his personal testimony from being abandoned at the age of 3 to finding and living in hope today.

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I picked him up from the airport as an incoming guest to be interviewed for a future FamilyLife Today broadcast.  I love picking up various guests to spend 15 minutes with them on the ride from the airport to their hotel or from the hotel to FamilyLife’s headquarters.  It’s always a joy to meet someone new and hear about their life, their journey.  Everyone has a story.  And, Rob’s is very unique–powerful, sad but hopeful.  Yet, it’s a part of nearly all of our stories at some level.  Pain inflicted on us in childhood through nothing we did.  Divorced homes, abandoned, abused and forgotten children.  It’s an ugly part of our culture.  But, it’s unfortunately the reality for way too many children.

At the age of three he was abandoned by his mother to an orphanage.  He was there until he was 17 when we was left for homeless.  The fact that he’s now a loving father of two grown children and a husband to a wonderful wife (his words 🙂 is a testament to a life change between then and now.  I won’t give away any of the story but you can pick it up at your local bookstore.  You can download the first chapter (which will get the tears flowing) by going to his books’ website: Castaway Kid (http://www.castawaykid.com).

As we shared, ate, laughed and even shed some tears, I was reminded that hope is eternal.  Even in a life as seemingly hopeless as his was, the story didn’t end there.  Unlike most children who are given over to orphanages in that type of situation and are either dead or in prison by the time they are 21 (according to Rob), his story turned out different.  He speaks to a lot of kids in similar situations, trying to spread the hope that he found in Jesus Christ.  He shares with them that they don’t have to be a victim of their circumstances and that their situation was not due to anything they did or didn’t do.  And, there is a God of hope that is there for them and does care.

His story is also one of forgiveness.  Though it was one of the toughest, if not the toughest, thing he ever had to do, he didn’t experience freedom from his past until he was able to forgive his mother.  He learned that bitterness and anger only enslave the one who holds them.  There is no freedom until one can forgive.  He left us a great picture of what God has done on a grand scale in forgiving us.  And, if Rob can forgive his mother for what she did to him, what keeps us from forgiving those who’ve done much less to us?  He shared the truth that forgiveness is not justifying the other party’s behavior but it is the “get out of jail card” that so many never turn in.  And, most of them, die in their bitterness when they could have lived in freedom.  It’s not easy…just necessary to live and have hope.

He referred to himself as the “voice of a father to the fatherless” when he goes to share his testimony.  He knows and can personally related to what each of those young men and women are going through and the anger, bitterness and despair that they feel.  And, because he has come out of their situation, they relate to him and he relates to them.

Maybe you’re one of those adults who was abandoned by your mom and dad, either physically, emotionally or both.  I invite you to read Rob Mitchell’s book, Castaway Kid.  There is hope for all.  Not just to get out of your circumstances or to put them behind you but to live in the promise of a God who loves and cares for you!

Oh, did I mention that he’s also now one of the leading financial advisors in the country.  But, as satisfying as it is for him to have that kind of career success, he indicated that the thing that he feels is the most important accomplishment in his life next to his becoming a Believer (in the Congo jungle at the age of 19 –you’ll have to read the book :), is the fact that his children know he loves them.  The love of a father is powerful.  Now, that’s generational change of a family legacy.  From abandonment to hope and a future–that’s how families are changed one home at a time.

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DadPad: Baseball, Board Games and Facebook

April 20, 2010

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Ahhh, it’s baseball season.  I love baseball.  I don’t follow it nearly as much as I used to.  When I was a kid, I used to play a game called Sports Illustrated baseball.  A friend of mine from down the block would come over and we would play all weekend during many weekends of the summer.  We would each play a certain number of teams and play a schedule just like the major leagues with playoffs and a world series.  It was a blast!  There were/are a number of other board games for baseball.   Games like “Pursue the Pennant“, “Strat-o-matic“, “Sports Illustrated baseball” and other tabletop games bring back great memories for me.  I just wish I had introduced my son to them.  If you’re interested, I found a website called Tabletop Board Games which listed a number of the old throwback baseball games.  Maybe you and your son or daughter can sit down and roll the dice for a home run together :).

Nowadays, most of the games we play are of the electronic kind.  They’re fun as well.  But, for me, I’ll take rolling the dice, erasing the statistics on a piece of paper to update a players last at-bat and the joy of being with a friend sitting around a table.

Just for fun, as I was looking at my favorite teams’ Facebook Fan Page (The Minnesota Twins) I decided to do something a little goofy.  I wanted to compare the number of Fans the official MN Twins had racked up on Facebook to the rest of the MLB teams.  Not surprisingly, the top two teams are the NY Yankees and the Boston Red Sox (my Twins are surprisingly #7).  But, which is the  favorite (at least Facebook fan favorite)  Los Angeles team?  How about the bay area winner?  You’ll be surprised (at least I was) at some of the teams and how little or many fans they have in comparison to the rest of the MLB Facebook teams.  Since it’s baseball season and since baseball is such a “dad-sport”, I thought I would include a little fun list on today’s DadPad post.  Here’s the list I compiled unofficially–where does your favorite team rank?:

* from Facebook-this is the fan page with the largest number of fans for a search on that team name (most if not all of the time it was the official page of the MLB team) as of 4/19/2010 8:30pm

#Fans Rank Team # of FB Fans *
1 New York Yankees 1,288,526
2 Boston Red Sox 1,073,166
3 Chicago Cubs 552,690
4 Philadelphia Phillies 343,068
5 San Francisco Giants 330,981
6 St. Louis Cardinals 316,059
7 Minnesota Twins 281,286
8 Detroit Tigers 262,325
9 Atlanta Braves 258,816
10 Chicago White Sox 232,187
11 New York Mets 196,441
12 Oakland A’s 191,317
13 Los Angeles Dodgers 184,416
14 Milwaukee Brewers 179,066
15 Cleveland Indians 151,289
16 Seattle Mariners 141,005
17 Houston Astros 129,230
18 Texas Rangers 125,344
19 Kansas City Royals 115,056
20 Colorado Rockies 115,054
21 Tampa Bay Rays 112,822
22 Cincinnati Reds 105,631
23 Los Angeles Angels 104,401
24 Toronto Blue Jays 101,602
25 Baltimore Orioles 97,168
26 Florida Marlins 83,309
27 San Diego Padres 80,701
28 Pittsburgh Pirates 71,612
29 Arizona Diamondbacks 65,248
30 Washington Nationals 43,634


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DadPad: Courageous Friday-Dads in Film

April 16, 2010

Here’s a clip of what one movie reviewer hopes Courageous will do for a better portrayal of fatherhood in film:

A couple of questions for you to share your thoughts about:

1) What TV Dad do you recall as being a strong Dad

2)  What do you hope Courageous does to more positively impact the role of Fathers in our society?

DadPad: When is Enough, Enough? Kids, Video Games and Parenting

April 15, 2010

Are your kids into gaming?  I found some interesting statistics on the effects of Video Game Playing at the National Institute on Media and the Family’s website:  For instance:

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  • 63% of Americans have played a video game in the past 6 months, compared to only 53% of people who have gone out to the movies (NDP Group Inc., 2009).
  • A study of over 2,000 8 to 18 year-olds (3rd through 12th graders) found that 83% of them have at least one video game player in their home, 31% have 3 or more video game players in their home, and 49%  have video game players in their bedrooms (Roberts, Foeher, and Rideout, 2005).
  • In the same study only 21% of kids reported that their parents set rules about which video games they can play, 17% reported their parents check warning labels or ratings on video games, and 12% reported they play video games they know their parents don’t want them playing (Roberts, Foeher, and Rideout, 2005).

Did you read that last bullet?  Only 21% of kids said Mom and Dad set rules about video game playing and 12% play games that they (kids) KNOW their parents don’t want them playing.

The video game industry continues to grow.  In fact, the 2010 Game Developers conference in San Francisco had “an all-time record of 18,250 game industry professionals attending San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center for the March 9th-13th event. Surpassing last year’s total of 17,000 attendees.” (By Ubm Techweb Game Network, PRNE-March 14, 2010)

There are plenty of issues that can be debated and discussed about the pros/cons of video games.  Here are a few potential outcomes of excessive gaming (per the Effects of Video Game Playing post at MediaFamily.org):

  • Adolescents who play more than one hour of console or Internet video games have more or more intense symptoms of ADHD or inattention than those who do not (Chan, 2006).
  • The most likely reasons that people play video games excessively are due to either ineffective time management skills, or as a symptomatic response to other underlying problems that they are escaping from, rather than any inherent addictive properties of the actual games (Wood, 2008).
  • Online Gaming Addictions display core components of addiction such as salience, mood modification, tolerance, conflict, withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and relapse (Chappell, 2006).
  • Both novice and expert online game players are subject to time distortion and have difficulty breaking off from the game without interruption by others in the real world (Rau, 2006).
  • Video game usage may be linked to a lower GPA and SAT score (Vivek, 2007).

Again, though there are pros of controlled video playing, there is almost no denying that it can be an addictive lifestyle that can have a negative long-term impact on our children.

In todays Moments with You daily devotional (at FamilyLife.com), “X-ing the Xbox”, there is an excerpt from the book, Playstation Nation by Kurt and Olivia Bruner, which tells the story of a mom who finally had enough.  Here’s the excerpt,

She had already earned high marks for unpopularity by limiting her boys’ game time to one hour a day. But when she came in one night before bed to tell them, “Time’s up,” they wanted to “finish a level” of their game before saving their progress. So they made a fatal choice: Instead of shutting the game off, they paused it instead . . . and returned to it in the middle of the night.

When Mom woke up at 2 A.M. and noticed the light emanating from downstairs, she went ballistic at first. Then she disappeared into her bedroom and paced the floor in prayer, asking God for wisdom about how and when to strike. Finally resolved, she went in each room and began pulling plugs and boxing up every piece of game system she could find. Then—with her boys watching in horror—she opened an upstairs window in their three-story house and dropped the whole thing to the ground. Ah, the beautiful sound of smashing electronics!

Dennis Rainey (author of the devotional) then concludes:

Drastic? Yes. But one of those boys left soon after for college with seven of his buddies. Before the first semester was completed, four of the seven dropped out and returned home to take part-time jobs so that they could have more time for video gaming. For one young man, however, the addiction was gone, thanks to a parent who cared more about her children’s character than their point totals or her popularity.

If video games have taken control of your house, maybe it’s time for you, too, to bring your kids back to reality.

In the MediaFamily.org study 1/3 of parents actually participate in the games with their children.  So, it can be a time of family interaction and fun.  There are some other positive benefits of video games.  As in most things in life, the issue is one of “balance and intentionality”.  My wife and I regulated the amount of time our children were able to spend in “monitor” time (an age appropriate amount of time daily that our children could spend in front of the TV + Computer).  Nowadays you need to add in cell phone time as well.

These are not easy decisions and I wouldn’t advocate going into your child’s room and tossing their computer and gaming equipment ala Howard Beale (played by the late Peter Finch) in the 1976 movie, Network, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ Though it may not be clearly evident the exact steps you need to take with your children, what is or should be evident is that steps do need to be taken to ensure your kids don’t get swallowed up by the video game allure.  And, it’s much easier to implement some guidelines and boundaries earlier in their lives than later.  So, what will you do today to help your kids be wiser users of media and video games?  When will you say, “Enough is Enough”?

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DadPad: Looking ahead to Courageous

April 8, 2010

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Next year the fourth movie from Sherwood (makers of Fireproof, Facing the Giants and Flywheel), will be released: Courageous.  In this video, Alex and Stephen Kendrick talk about the inspiration for the movie and what they hope transpires through the movie.  Since the theme is about being a courageous father, DadPad will post periodic news and related updates to the movie production process.  We are excited about how this movie might be used for a catalytic fatherhood movement!  For more information about the movie, go to the Courageous website and sign up to receive their newsletter.  Additionally you can follow them on their Facebook fan page.

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DadPad Quotes and Notes: Boomerang Gang

April 7, 2010

Human beings are the only creatures on earth that allow their children to come back home. Bill Cosby

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The countdown is on.  We are theoretically about 133 days to launching our last child to college.  I say theoretically because we have a son who is graduating and we have a strange feeling that he may be coming back.  So, just when you think you have finished a phase of parenting (the college launch), you enter into another one (the return to the nest of the graduated).  And we are just trying to figure out what that looks like.

We want to help our son and, quite honestly, I’m not sure if my wife can handle having me all to herself ;).  But, trying to figure out what is the best for him, for us and the family is easier in theory than reality.

On one hand, I want him to be able to grow up and mature.  On the other, it’s nice having him close.  We actually enjoy him :).  But, it’s good for him to be out on his own.  Currently he isn’t sure what he’s going to do for work (he has a biology degree but doesn’t want to go into medicine so he’s not sure how that will translate to career pursuits).  We know that he’ll need some time to sort through his options.

Besides, is it SO bad to have a college graduate at home for a little while?  I’ve been thinking lately about why we embrace individualism so much in this country when most other cultures try to keep the generations of families close, if not in the same home.  Additionally, I don’t see any biblical reference to moving as far away from family as possible as soon as you graduate from school.  Is this just an American phenomenon?  And, as our culture ages, are we seeing the impact of distance separating families affect how the elderly are cared for?  Ok…waxing way too philosophically.  But, I have thought about some of these things (weird, I know).

So, today, I’m reaching out.  I would LOVE to hear from you who have gone before me on this adventure, have journeyed through this with your kids and made some decisions about rules of returning home.  I want to hear how you decided how long they could stay at home after graduating; did you make them pay rent; what about chores? and things like that.  And, how did you communicate it to them?

Thanks for helping out a mom and dad who will soon need to make these decisions for real!

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DadPad Quotes and Notes: Don’t be an April Fool-Part 2

April 6, 2010

Proverbs 13:20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

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There are two dangerous things for men.  First, being alone.  Second, hanging out with those who’d be better off being alone.  There’s another verse that says, “bad company corrupts good morals.”  In some way, men face a real dilemma (at least this man has and has spoken to many others who have as well).  The dilemma?  We are afraid we’ll be found out.  We feel that if people (our wife, our boss, our kids, our friends) found out who we really were, we would be abandoned, fired, ridiculed, shunned or cast aside as useless, like an old shirt that no longer fits.  This theme has come up time and time again in discussions with other men in over 20 years of working in men’s (and family) ministry (as a layman and now full time on staff with FamilyLife).

There are no easy answers to this dilemma for men.  And, I’m not going to turn this into an analysis of the male psyche.  But, I do think that the verse above from Proverbs holds a key element in beginning to approach this problem for men.  When men feel threatened or inheritantly anxious about their roles and abilities, there is a trigger reaction to push people to the periphery of their lives.  I mean, if we let someone in too deep, they’ll discover what I’m really like and either render me as hapless or, worse, evil.

I’ve had more than my share of screw ups, moments of giving in to weakness, things done that I’m not proud of and thoughts that I can’t even share now.  Additionally, being a follower of Christ, often makes those inadequacies feel even weightier.  That is not the biblical truth but something that Christian men have wrestled with for centuries.

So, how have I experienced some victory in this area?  I’ve practiced what the verse says— I’ve spent time with others who understand these issues about themselves but who live according the truth as given to them by God through His Word.  I’ve learned to expose the truth to others about things I’ve done, ways I’ve messed up, and asked for advice from “wise guys”.  Whenever I found myself in seclusion or in the company of others who simply nodded or affirmed my destructive thoughts or behavior, I was trapped.  That’s why the verse “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” has been so life transforming for me.

Our male “dilemma” is no more visible than in the area of fathering.  I don’t know about you but I didn’t see the manual come out with the child.  I have felt that I’m completely and woefully inadequate to be a dad.  Yet, if I respond to this feeling the same way I have in other areas of my life, I would simply find ways to work longer, travel more, rely on my wife to take care of the parenting duties.  You see, I’m pretty good at covering up my weaknesses by assigning them to someone else or ignoring them.  But, when I started sharing the responsibility of being a dad with other dads who felt strangely similar in their sense of inadequacy, it didn’t feel so burdensome.  As we began to encourage each other in our roles, listen to each other as we shared struggles and missed opportunities, we all began to sense that this was something we could do, with God’s and each others’ help.

My encouragement for you as a man and as a dad is to find a man in your church, at your work, in your neighborhood or family who you admire.  Someone who seems to have a peace about his life and would admit in a minute that he’s not done it all well but he has done it–this thing called manhood.  First, you’ll likely discover he didn’t do it alone and that he surrounded himself with other men who could encourage, admonish and lift him up.  Then, you’ll find out that he was (and probably still is) just as anxious about failing in all aspects of being a man as you are.

Don’t be an April fool.  No matter how much you’ve succeeded in some of your roles as a man, open yourself up to another man or group of men that can sharpen each other to be the men of God you were created to be.  No one can do this alone.

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DadPad Quotes and Notes: Don’t be an April Fool-Part 1

April 1, 2010

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

It’s April Fool’s day.  I’ve never been one that has taken to practical jokes, even on April Fool’s day.  I have heard of some great jokes and others that are just plain mean.  But, I want to talk about another kind of April Fool for the next three days leading up to Easter.

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If you’ve spent anytime reading this blog there are two things we hope you have been able to see.  First, we are not perfect dads and don’t profess to be so.  Second, we do profess faith in the One True Father and that is the underlying power for everyone who’s submitted an entry for this blog.  We often talk about being a father without overtly discussing elements of our Christian faith.  Yet, you’d be hard pressed (hopefully) to find anything that we have shared from our earthly experience as dads that we haven’t tried to base in our faith.

Given that premise, it’s our desire to share some things that more directly tie into our underlying faith as we lead  up to the most significant day in the New Testament church–Easter.

The verse in Proverbs at the beginning of this post says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”  This is not only biblical but practical as well.  Yet, it seems to me that it is one of the hardest things for us to do as men.  Get advice.  Only when we reach the end of the rope will we let down our veneer and others inside our pain, our failings, our life.  This happens to too many men.  Is it true of you?

Throughout my life, I’ve been on both sides of this fence.  I’m the guy that doesn’t want to ask for directions.  I know it’s stereotypical, but it’s true for me.  GPS has been a God send :).  Yet, as I’ve walked through the years and experienced pain (much of it self inflicted), I’ve been thankful that there are a handful of men I can reach out to and know that they will be there for me.  I’m not just looking for advice.  I’m looking for wisdom from other men who care about me and who are grounded in their faith.  It doesn’t mean they walk perfectly but they first love God and they’ve shown an intentional love for others.

Dads, it’s our desire that this blog is a place where you can hear from other ordinary dads/men who walk with an extraordinary God.  We’ve made mistakes (some of which have been the fodder for DadPad blog posts and soon to be posts) and have experienced some success as men and dads.  All of us would say that we’ve had others from whom we could seek advice.  How about you?  Are you an April Fool and only looking to yourself for advice or do you seek the wise counsel of others?  To be the dads we need to be for our family, we hope it’s the latter for all of us.

Thought:  What successes have you had in being advised by another wise man?  What are the challenges of opening up to another?  What are the consequences if you don’t?

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