Learn It, Then Earn It (For Dads)

son-fatherDear Fellow Fathers,

There’s a difference between maleness and manliness.  A person is a male by virtue of his sex (gender), his DNA.  A male is not a man simply because of his age, his profession, his marital status, whether or not he’s a virgin, what he owns, or any other arbitrary factor.  A male becomes a man when his life is manly.  What is manliness?  Virtue.  This is one of the 3 main tenants of TrueManhood.com – nothing new for the readership.

2015-10_LT-CatechismHowToThe Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 1803, states that virtue is “the habitual and firm disposition to do the good.”  The CCC clarifies that virtue is an action… doing… a verb.  So when does a male become a man?  When he does good.  You’re a male reading this… are you a man or are you simply a male?

Thankfully, with the definition that the Church gives us, we don’t have to wonder whether or not a male is a man, which means that we don’t have to wonder whether or not our sons (or the males interested in our daughters) are men.  It’s the benchmark by which we “grade” them.  When we know that, we can move forward to help these males continue to live in a manly way.  This brings me to my point…

father-son-lessons_9c7yManliness isn’t given, manliness is earned.  Before something can really be earned, someone must know what they are earning, thus males must first learn what manliness is before they can earn it.  As fathers, it is our responsibility to not only live out manliness (ie: virtue) but to teach it.  The world gives various versions of counterfeit manliness for our boys to shoot for (search “Cultural Manliness” on this site for more on the world’s main version) and if we don’t teach them what authentic masculinity is, their only option is the world’s option.

The world’s option isn’t an option for me.  It’s not an option for my son, Dave Jr.  It’s not an option for my daughters Lily, Emma, and Maria.  The world’s option is a lie.

Let’s work together as Catholic fathers to teach our children (male and female) what masculinity is.  If you ever wonder, just refer back to the Catechism, to TrueManhood.com, or to the “Guide to Virtue” found on my site.  More to follow on dads teaching their sons what TrueManhood is all about.

TrueMan up!

‘Sexy’ Pressure for Girls at Halloween – an Article Primarily for Dads

October 21, 2015 by  
Filed under Blog, cultural manliness, Fatherhood, manliness, Parenting

The concept of ‘sexy pressure’ for girls at Halloween had never crossed my mind before my wife sent me a NY Times “parent blog” article – here it is – but now it’s resonating with me.  Makes me think about 10 years from now… what’s life going to be like for our little ones?  (Please read the article so that you understand what I’m talking about.  And not, I certainly don’t prescribe to what the author of the article is saying, but simply bringing it up as a point of discussion.)  I’m a father of 3 daughters, and although they are young, I’m aware of the pending pressure that’s coming – but apparently not aware enough.

halloween girlsIn the article, you can sense that the pressure on girls comes mostly from other girls.  They didn’t talk about whether or not the guys thought they were ‘too sexy’, but the pressure stemmed almost exclusively from what the other girls perceived.  (I assert, too, that the pressure they feel isn’t so much real as it is only a perception, and the one quote shows that, when she says, essentially, “it’s not discussed but everyone knows it.”)  I’ve always found this to be true; the guys aren’t aware enough, most of the time, or don’t care enough, to make a big deal out of girl’s clothing.  Although there is that aspect when a girl is dressed in a “slutty” manner (per the article) when guys notice and begin to pay attention to her.  This is age-old.

vintage halloweenWhat’s the big deal here?  Isn’t this just adolescent development, trial-and-error, and growing pains?  No, I don’t think so.  It’s a big deal because of the culture around our kids.  They see particular things online, on TV, in movies, in music videos, etc. and whatever is “it” MUST be emulated.  At least in their minds.  Whatever’s hip, cool, newest, biggest, baddest, and those things that push the moral lines, is what is desired.  Again, this is age-old.  The shiny thing that grabs attention is what becomes so sought after.  So, with our young women, and this idea of “dressing sexy for Halloween”, what do we do?  Fathers… where are you?

vintage halloween2Here’s what we do.  I’ve written about this before, I speak about this all the time, I teach my kids in class this concept in all we do.  It’s not a new concept… it too is age-old.  We teach our kids that they are intrinsically good and that God loves them, and that we love them.  We instill in them a self-worth that is so strong that it can stand up against any cultural phenomenon, any peer pressure, any moral dilemma and come out victorious.  Without this self-worth, without this knowledge that they have a dignity that is deserving of only the greatest, they will fall into the pressure of the world to find their happiness, self-worth, and coolness factor from other things.  In the end, those other things won’t bring happiness, only emptiness.

Fathers: if you’re not the most loving, caring, compassionate, uplifting source of goodness in your daughter’s life, then why not?!  She needs your attention, your affection, your love, your discipline, your care, your concern.  NEEDS it like she needs water, food, oxygen, and shelter.  An absolute necessity.  If you’ve failed her in this area up to this point, work to fix your mistakes.  You’ve got 10 days before Halloween, it’s not too late.  And let’s be real, Halloween isn’t the issue, but it certainly accentuates the issue.

TrueMan up!

Men, I Exhort You

Into the BreachFrom time to time, bishops write what are called ‘apostolic exhortations’… a letter or article or writing that calls the people to a higher level of knowledge on a topic… that encourages the reader to live a particular way, or to consider a worldview that may be different from what they currently believe and are living.  Many apostolic exhortations have to do with modern crisis and societal concerns that the bishop desires to spend time and effort working to correct.  The latest of these exhortations comes from a great man, a great shepherd of the people, and a wonderful bishop, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix in Arizona.  Watch the trailer below to be inspired to read the exhortation, which you can find by clicking on the link below.

Click HERE to get to the exhortation.  It is lengthy, and the website has much more on it than just the exhortation, so be prepared to save the site and come back to it as you need to.

Bishop Olmsted

I applaud the efforts of Bishop Olmsted and all the men and women who support him in this project.  He couldn’t be more right in what he says and writes… we are absolutely in a crisis and need the fullness of the teaching of masculinity to come out and to be spread.  That IS the work of TrueManhood Men’s Ministry and we stand in solidarity with Bishop Olmsted.

TrueMan up!

Porn – Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

September 7, 2015 by  
Filed under Blog, Fatherhood, Parenting, pornography

I’m now a couple of weeks into my new career as a teacher.  I’m really enjoying it, and the kids are amazing.  We have great conversations about the faith, and I really believe that I’m reaching them.  As I consider each of my classes and each of my students, I haven’t yet breached the subject of pornography.  I’m working now to form bonds of trust and mutual respect, and want to work towards gaining moral authority with my students.  We’ll get there, and I don’t think it will take long.

TOB for TeensIn one class specifically, but in all seven of my classes generally, I’ll be diving into the topic of The Theology of the Body, and when we dive into that topic, we must (absolutely MUST) discuss the topic of pornography.  So I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to breach the subject, and how I’m going to deal with the responses.  I’ve presented to middle and high school kids plenty of times on the topic, but never in the classroom setting… always in retreat and/or talk situations.  This is going to be much different.

Telescope

This got me thinking… if parents don’t fail with pornography use themselves, and also don’t know whether or not their children do, does the topic ever cross their mind?  Is pornography an “out of sight, out of mind” problem?  I know it crosses mine because I’m aware of the realities in my own life (past use), as well as the realities of the industry and the prevalence.  Here are some distinct groups when it comes to porn awareness.

  1. Users: obviously, they’re highly aware of porn and are abusing it frequently.  It’s on their mind, if not constantly, very regularly.
  2. Those fighting: highly aware and trying to create awareness in others.
  3. Those in recovery: depending on the length of recovery, it may not be a frequent awareness, but they’re aware.
  4. Those oblivious: have no knowledge of the topic, aren’t aware at all.
  5. Those in denial: refusal to believe that porn is actually a problem.

What group do you fall in?  Are you a man using porn?  Does it rule your life?  What are you doing about it if this is you?  Or, are you in recovery?  Perhaps you’re oblivious and don’t know much about porn.  (You’ve come to a good site to learn more about the truths of pornography!  Just do a search in the white box.)  Are you a parent who is in denial of how bad pornography is and how likely your child is using it?  Wherever you might be, please continue to educate yourself on the matter and realize that, even if porn is “out of sight”, it can’t be “out of mind.”

prayer-bound-rope-grayscale-creationswap

I hope to be creating some good new resources for parents on the topic of fighting pornography, and I want to get them out to you very soon.  In the meantime, please look through my site for help.  Email info@truemanhood.com for specific questions.

TrueMan up!

Keep Your Cool, Dad

August 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Blog, Fatherhood, manliness, Parenting, Virtue

I recently witnessed a less-than-ideal situation between a father and his children, and thought I’d relay the story here so that everyone could think about it.  They were doing some yardwork.  His kids were helping with the mowing and edging.  At one point, the father became irrate because the equipment stopped working.  He began to scream at the both of them, as if it was their fault that the machine failed.  A few explitives flew, a few derogatory and demeaning things were said, and I’m sure, some confidence (in the kids) was shot.

father yelling at daughter

OK, so why do I bring this story up?  Lots of reasons!  First of all… anytime I hear yelling and cursing near me, I begin to investigate.  Secondly, anytime I know that a child is being yelled at, I turn my attention to the situation.  The lie to “keep your nose out of other people’s business” isn’t something I subscribe to, and neither should you.  The care of women, children, and other men is always a TrueMan’s business.  Passivity must not be tolerated.   Also, I want to work to highlight not only bad behavior in men, but more importantly, the ways in which the rest of us can learn from the mistakes and shortcomings of other men around us.  Let’s not make the same mistakes as others.  It’s about a dad who’s unable to control his temper and who is misguided in how he deals with stress.

I was keeping an eye on the situation in the event that it got out of hand and needed my intervention.  It never came to that, thankfully.  Whether the dad made the switch on his own, or if he saw me and changed his tune because he knew I was nearby, or whether it was something else entirely, I was just glad to see that it stopped.  To my knowledge, he never hit or struck his kids – I most certainly would have stepped in.

Let’s consider how a TrueMan handles this situation as a father.  If you’re going to have your children helping you, with whatever you’re doing, make it about teaching them and forming them to perform their chores/work properly.  If they happen to break something while learning, realize that stuff breaks and – if you’ve done it correctly – they’ll have truly learned something!  Isn’t that the point?!  Explanations of how things work, processes to follow, safety standards… all good things.  Yelling at them and demeaning them is the wrong approach.  Teaching, forming, encouraging… those are the attributes of a man who can be proud of his parenting.

A TrueMan keeps his cool, in every situation.  This requires so many virtues, they are too numerous to mention here.  Namely, the virtues of temperance, prudence, and fortitude come to mind.  If you aren’t familiar with these words, or want more information on virtue, please check out our “TrueManhood’s Guide to Virtue” under the Resources tab.  Dads, your kids want to be with you.  They want your time, your attention, your affection, your love.  They want you.  They want to be wanted by you.  Give them that.  Give them you!

Father with kids

On a personal note, I work to constantly be aware of my yelling and overall tone when dealing with my kiddos.  I’ve come a long way and still can be better.  I don’t always do the right thing, and I don’t always make the right choices, but my head is screwed on straight and I work to be cognizant of how what I say affects my kids.  And not just what I say, but how I say it.  When we say and do things to our children, it definintely affects them and stays with them.  It changes them.  Work to be aware of your words and actions, because your kids are watching and learning; they’ll become who you teach them to become.

TrueMan up!

Be Encouraged for Back-to-School!

August 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Blog, Faith, Fatherhood, Parenting, Virtue

back-to-schoolThe start of the school season is here.  That time of year when kids wish that summer lasted a few more weeks, and mom’s wish their babies weren’t growing up so fast.  When teachers stress (or so I’m told) about getting their rooms ready, organized, and situated and fall sport coaches get geared up for practices to begin.  And our American way of life gets its schedule back.

Personally, I haven’t been this excited about a school year, well… maybe ever.  I’m actually pumped for school to start.  I can’t wait to welcome my students to my classroom for the first time!  I will begin teaching middle school and high school theology, having a total of seven classes per day.  It’s going to be a rollercoaster schedule, but I’m really excited about it.  I’m teaching 6th-10th grades, and 2 electives which I hope to highlight more in the future.  “Faith & Action” for 7th-9th graders and “Faith & Strength” for 11th-12th.  These classes are going to be amazing.  I have the honor and pleasure of helping to form these young minds and souls in the truths of Christ Jesus!  What better honor could their be?!

Vintage school pic

Whatever you’re feeling in regards to back-to-school, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

FOR KIDS: School is about more than grades, gossip, and gross cafeteria food.  Embrace school, and all the trials that come along with it, to help build you into the person God is calling you to be.  Set goals for yourself for what you’d like to achieve this year – whether they be academic, athletic, extra-curricular, or a mix of all of them.  Don’t take this time in your life for granted… soak it up, enjoy it, and live each day to the fullest.  I challenge you to be pro-active (don’t procrastinate!) with your homework, set your priorities straight, and to be determined to always be a positive influence in your school.  Be a heroicly virtuous leader among your peers!

FOR PARENTS: You have the power to shape the “mental game” of your child!  If you help them to see things correctly, to properly order their day, to set them up for success… they will be all the better for it!  Ask your child questions, engage them in what’s going on in school (don’t forget about the social aspect – so many parents don’t have a clue) and help them to set goals.  I like the idea of monthly, quarterly, and semester goal-setting.  (We’ll be goal-setting in my classes.)  Outlaw the lame, but ever so popular, question “How was school today?”  Instead, ask them engaging questions like: 1. What was the most important thing you said today?  2. How were you a leader at school today? (Notice that I don’t leave room for “I wasn’t a leader.”  Expect your child to execute leadership!  Learning their leadership style, possibly through their temperament, would be a great exercise.)  3. What did you do today to help you achieve your goals?  4. What mistakes did you make today and how will you make sure you don’t make them again?  (And so on. Choose one or two a day, don’t feel like you need to ask them all every day.  Come up with your own.)  Even small children can have conversations about these concepts, and it’s much more effective than one-word responses and helps teach children valuable communication skills.  In our house, we also go around the table, asking everyone these two questions: 1. What was your favorite part of the day? 2. How did you make the choice to love today?  GREAT for conversations!

A word to the dads: Dads, if you’re not actively involved in the schooling process of your children, make a “new school year” resolution and become involved.  An easy way to engage is to make sure that your family has dinner together every night and that you ask some of those important questions at that time.  I know there are a million and one excuses about why dinner doesn’t happen as a family, but it’s super important to “break bread” together. Lead the conversation, get to know the inner workings of your kid’s brain, and build the trust with them that you expect should be there.  It doesn’t just happen on its own – you have to work at it and earn it from them.  When you do, you’ll be effective in speaking into their lives – possibly the single most important thing you can do!  Go Dads!

May God bless your school year, your school, your teachers and coaches, and most imporantly, our children.

TrueMan up!

What My 6 Year Old Asked Siri to Show Her

August 9, 2015 by  
Filed under Blog, Fatherhood, For Women, Parenting, pornography, Virtue

I’m a huge proponent of “leading with your weakness”.  By showing those who follow you that you aren’t perfect, that you make mistakes, and that you have weaknesses, it makes you real.  It also shows people that we aren’t the sum of our failures.  So, as embarrasing as this story is, I’m going to share it because I think it will help people and may also encourage them to take the steps necessary within their own situation to prevent problems like this from occurring.

neighborhood

Recently, my sister-in-law and her kids moved in a few houses down.  It’s awesome having them nearby, and my kids really enjoy their cousins.  Since it’s the summertime, they’ve been playing non-stop… riding bikes, going to the swimming pool, playing at the playground, and having a grand ‘ol time.  However, with having cousins around, and additional adult supervision, our parenting has gotten a bit “loose”, we’ll say.  Boundaries have expanded, and permission an after-thought.  We have varying ages between the two families, so rules are different, especially in terms of the use of electronic devices, and access to the internet.  I knew this, and had a conversation with my two oldest children (still quite young) about not being on any devices (smartphones, iPods, tablets, laptops, etc.), even if their cousins were.  They obliged, knowing that we allow them some time on their Amazon Kindle Fire for Kids (with GREAT parental controls) a few times per week, and we went on our way.  But a few days later…

My wife got a call from her sister saying something to the effect of “the girls are busted.”  Apparently, she had walked past my niece’s bedroom and overheard my 6 year old daughter ask Siri “show me butt-naked people”.  What?!?!  She immediately went in and confescated the device and sent my daughter home to us.  (Thankfully, my sister-in-law has Covenant Eyes on all of the devices in her home, so even if she wouldn’t have heard this verbal request, she would have received the emailed report for this inappropriate search and the links to everything that was viewed.  Thank goodness she heard it immediately, and for the filter that blocked the search results!)

SiriMy daughter walked in and we could tell by her behavior that she knew she was in hot water.  I began to ask her what happened, and she started to breathe hard, fabricate a story, and struggle to really get any words out.  My wife and I had details from her sister, so we would know if she was lying or telling the truth.  I didn’t want to pressure her, so we had her go into her room, telling her that we’d call her out in a short while.  My wife and I had a powwow to figure out how we were going to respond.  Here’s what we decided to do:

  1. Ask our daughter to tell us the whole truth.  We wanted to know what happened at Auntie’s house in her cousin’s room.
  2. If she told the truth, she would still receive a punishment (for disobeying the original rule of “no devices”), but we would praise her for telling the truth and move on to discuss what she saw/did.  If she told a lie and fabricated a story, the consequences of her actions would be much more severe.
  3. Make it clear to her that we love her.
  4. Explain the concept of pornography with the help of a great resource called “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures.”  (We read and discussed chapter 1.)
  5. Teach her that the human body is a good thing, and that God made it beautiful.  In addition, there are private parts and they are private for a reason.  (FYI – private parts are those areas that we cover with swimming suits.)
  6. Teach her that being curious, about a lot of things, is okay and normal, but that she needs to talk to Daddy and Mommy, not ask Siri!
  7. Set the punishment for disobeying the original rule.  (She lost her prized stuffed animals – a devastating loss for her.)
  8. Tighten the rules, house-wide.
  9. Explain our rules to the aunt/cousins so that the temptation to have our children break the rules would be lessened.  (2 rules to remember: 1. our property and 2. no devices.  They’re all still very little, so we want to keep rules easily understood and achievable.)
  10. Hug our daughter and tell her that we love her.


good-pictures-bad-cover
We also followed up on this topic and discussion additional times over the weekend, and will take the conversation further from now on.

Some might be astonished that my young daughter was looking up porn on a wi-fi enabled device, but they shouldn’t be.  Kids have more access to porn and other terrible things than some people want to admit.  Their minds are curious and based on their exposure, whatever kind of media, influence, or consumption it might be, their knowledge of what to search or ask about varies.  I’m still not really sure what spurred on this particular “ask Siri” search, but my best guess is that it came from an interest in mermaids.

Here’s what I know:

  • I gave my daughter too much leeway and trusted her just a little too much.  She’s tempted just like any other kid (or human, in general.)
  • My daughter isn’t bad, evil, or sinful, but realistically curious and inquisitive.  This means that I need to pay much more attention to her than I was, and be sure to teach her in a pro-active way, not a retro-active way.
  • My wife and I teamed up well with our approach, were on the same page, were calm and clear, and followed-through like we needed to.
  • I’m really grateful for Covenant Eyes on our devices and for the functionality and ease-of-use.

If you’re a parent, you cannot disregard this topic.  None of us can.  Every child is susceptible to the dangers of the internet, and the easy access points that are made available to them.  Whether it be their own devices in your home, a friend’s device, or a school or library computer, the temptation to “ask Siri”, or “just Google it” is real.  Informing our children ahead of time, and continuing to have the conversation is an absolute must!  We should be arming them with the tools to be virtuous so that when they are faced with these choices, they choose what is right and good.  Watch for more coming on this topic, and please take advantage of the 60-day free trial that Covenant Eyes is offering through my affiliate, good through August 31.  Click HERE for the free trial.

TrueMan up!