Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Company You Keep: Helping Your Kids to Develop the Right Friendships

One of the life experiences that I consider so valuable is becoming a parent after having been parented by my dad and mom. I learned their approach in dealing with my siblings and me and now I have the privilege of instilling in my own kids the values that I believe will guide them to have successful lives. I was given life lessons in a loving way by my parents and now I seek to do the same as a parent.

During my childhood, I recall both my mother and father, at different times, warning me about “keeping bad company.” By that, they meant that I should be careful of the associations I had with other people. As a child who felt he knew what was best for him, I didn’t really care to hear what they had to say. Who were they to tell me who I could or couldn’t talk to? I can make my own choices, right?

Well today, I can look in the rear view mirror and truly thank them for knowing what was best for me. So many years later, I have come to the realization that they were wise beyond words. Indeed, you are known by the company you keep.

Each day, children all over the world meet other children – at school, on the playground, at the mall, at places of worship, etc. Some of these individuals just remain acquaintances. Some of them become friends. And others become more than just friends – they become so close that a lifetime bond is created.

As life goes on, the closer that individuals are as friends, the more their lives tend to mirror each other. For instance, I met my best friend during my university studies in the late 1980s. Looking back over the years, it’s almost surreal just how much our lives mirror each other’s. We studied in the business school and have gone on to different positions in the finance and accounting field in the corporate world. We got married and started families around the same time. Over the years, our lives have changed in innumerable ways but our friendship has remained the same.

So how have we become such good friends? As I look back over the 19 years that we lived prior to meeting each other, I see that our lives were along parallel paths. We were both born in Jamaica – each as the 3rd of 4 children. Both of our dads were school principals and lay preachers at church. Both of our moms were teachers. In the early 1980s, our families migrated from Jamaica to the state of Texas. We met in 1989 at the University of Texas at Austin and have been just like brothers since. I believe that we both have enhanced each other’s lives over the years.

Rodrick (The Upbeat Dad) and college buddies
So what point am I making in this? We both come from loving homes with loving parents and siblings. When we went off to college, because of the values instilled in us at home, we tended to gravitate towards people who shared our similar values. We have a circle of friends – of different races and cultures. But our common bond is that we come from loving homes and we tend to share the same values.

We were fortunate, in that, our parents had a positive influence on us and helped us to make the right choices when we went away to school. There are so many others who we’ve met along the way who didn’t have the type of influence that we had. Many came from homes without the presence of a father. Others came from two parent households but the type of nurturing that was necessary to help them become their best wasn’t given. And it was to their detriment.

As parents, we have an obligation to guide our kids to make the right choices in life. My daughter begins high school this coming fall. It seems like only a few years ago I was there when she entered this world. Now she’s about to embark on the last few years of schooling before she goes off to college. She’s an honor roll student and quite personable. But the thing I’m most proud about is the choices she has made in having friends. Those individuals have a direct impact on her success in the classroom and ultimately in life.

I heard several years ago that working adults tend to make within $10,000 - $15,000 of their closest associates. And that makes perfect sense. Like-minded individuals tend to read the same books, go to similar social events, interact with the same type of people and so on.  It’s just one of those things in life that isn’t a mystery. You may have heard it said that we are known by the company we keep. I’ve found it to be true.

I wonder how many parents don’t know who their kids’ friends are. I also wonder how many dads are so busy working, traveling, golfing and climbing the corporate ladder that they don’t know the company that their kids keep. If you don’t know, now may be a good time to begin the process of getting to know. Here are some tips:

  • Talk to your kids' friends when they come over to your home and get to know them.
  • Offer to take your kids and their friends to a ball game or some other type of social setting. Have fun, but also observe the type of interaction that they have with each other.
  • Schedule conferences with your kids' school teachers and find out from them if they have any concern about influences that others have on your kid.
  • Share your own testimonials with your kids about your own lifelong friendships and the positive influences that you have had. This will speak volumes to them - as they will know you're not only saying it but you've lived it.

Those are just a few tips to help you get on the right track in imparting wisdom to your kids.

As parents, we have 18 or so years to have an influence on the daily lives of our children. When they go off to college or to face life’s other challenges, they will be guided by the values and principles instilled in them while they are under our care. It’s a huge responsibility that you and I have. Let’s endeavor to demonstrate our love for our kids by helping them to make the choices that will guide them into the future.

Enjoy your day,

The Upbeat Dad

Monday, July 9, 2012

Onward to the Next Frontier: The Vision of the Upbeat Dad Organization!

In October 2010, I launched the Upbeat Dad blog simply for the purpose of empowering dads to become actively engaged in the lives of their children. I didn’t quite know what the response would have been but I just had an overwhelming desire to help others through this medium. If even one person would stand to benefit from this work, then to me, it would be worth it.

Today, over 20 months later, I have written 214 blog posts. We have well over 200,000 hits on the site, with readers on every continent except Antarctica – not sure if they have internet there anyway! I’ve had the privilege of having positive exchanges with members of our audience from all over the world through the blog, our Facebook page and on our Twitter feeds. I have had several interviews with different media sources including the BBC. We have had two Upbeat Dad Community Forums to date. I have spoken at different conferences including the Head Start in Miami and The Divorce Expo in Detroit. So it’s been an eventful almost two years!

As the vision has unfolded, I have come to the realization that the Upbeat Dad concept is more about a cause than anything. In its true essence, it’s a positive force for change. The underlying theme that’s been echoed by others with whom I’ve interacted as I’ve carried out this work is that the message is so needed. So with that, I have sought to put in place an infrastructure to address many of the issues that have been identified.

All of this has led to the forming in late 2011 of the Upbeat Dad Organization, Inc., a non-profit corporation whose mission is to empower fathers and to support families. As this phase of the vision is unfolding, I am realizing more and more how much work there is to do. Well, maybe I shouldn’t call it work – it’s more fun than anything. But the possibilities of what might be accomplished are endless. It’s all for the purpose of helping dads to play their part in the raising of their children.

Some men become fathers but don’t quite know how to be dads. The term father is a term of biology. But dad is a term of endearment. Then there are men who deeply desire to be involved in the lives of their children but because of various obstacles that dominate the family law system, their efforts seem futile. There are so many issues that are prevalent when it comes to the matter of fatherhood. So we have developed a systematic approach to address many of these issues. There is certainly no “one size fits all” solution to these issues. So step by step we are tackling the problems that we’ve identified.

I haven’t written quite as many blog posts recently. I do plan to get back to writing more frequently, ideally at least one or two per week. I recognize the importance of these posts, as I believe they give practical solutions to the different issues that men deal with. But behind the scenes, there’s quite a bit of work being done. Let’s just say that the blueprint for a masterpiece is being assembled. And it’s my opinion that that masterpiece will be for your benefit.

I believe that the cause for which the organization has been formed is great. In the coming weeks, months and years, you’ll begin to see the vision unfold to a greater extent than it has to this point. We have formed strategic alliances with various organizations including the Miami Dolphins. We will have more public events – ones that will function as the ground war in a military operation. We have engaged the services of a team of consultants whose responsibility is to help us develop certain modules to effect change in different parts of our society, including the corporate arena, the educational system, the prison system, the political system, the legal system and more.

The purpose of this post is to really affirm our commitment to practicing what we’ve preached since we launched this site almost two years ago. I hope that you have a glimpse of where we are going with this. I often say that it’s the cause of a lifetime. Having been through a divorce and now having the privilege of raising a new family, along with my daughter from my first marriage, I know just how fortunate and blessed I am. So I seek to empower others to take the “upbeat” approach and do the right thing for their kids.

I think that we’re embarking on an exciting phase of the vision. So do stay engaged with us. And share any of our posts with others who you think will benefit from what we seek to share. More than anything, I believe that children will have more a promising future when their dads are actively involved in their development. So the purpose behind all that we do will be to help these dads to have that positive impact.

Do enjoy your day. And stay tuned – the best is yet to come!

The Upbeat Dad