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The Daily Dad

The audio companion to DailyDad.com’s daily email meditations on fatherhood, read by Ryan Holiday. Each daily reading will help you find the wisdom, inner strength, and good humor you need in order to be a great dad. Learn from historical figures and contemporary fathers how to do your most important job. Find more at dailydad.com.

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An Important Rule for Dads

The economist Russ Roberts is a guy who understands how the world works. He knows about the laws of the economy and government. He knows about philosophy and he knows about history. He lives his life by a number of rules and rituals. He keeps Shabbat, for instance, and he commits to regularly tithing a portion of his income. He has another rule, specifically for dads, that is worth thinking about today:If your child offers you a hand to hold, take itThe preciousness of childhood, the preciousness of this day, today, this moment when your child wants your hand for comfort can be hard to appreciate in the moment. You might be tired. Or just tired of holding your child’s hand. Take it anyway. As they get older, they assert their independence. That’s good. But in the meanwhile, hold their hand, take care of them with an open heart. And when they ask to hear Curious George for the nth time, read it again as if it were the first. Life and relationships are an endless dance of reaching out and pulling away. You reach out to your kids, they pull away—they’re busy, they’re in front of their friends, they’re mad at you. You try to help them and they don’t want it. You want what’s best for them but they don’t understand. We can’t control that. It’s going to hurt sometimes. Signals will get crossed. It’s heartbreaking but it’s part of growing up. What we can control is that whenever they reach out—whenever they offer us a hand to hold—that we take that opportunity. When they want to lay in our bed with us, we can let them. When they call on the phone, we can answer—even if we’re in a meeting. When they ask to talk about something, we can listen, whatever it’s about. We can hold them tight every chance we have. We need to make a rule of it.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

2mins

2 Dec 2019

Rank #1

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There Are Things Better To Just Not Think About

Emily Oster is a writer and a thinker after our own heart. Frustrated with all the bad parenting advice—most of which seems to be based on old wives’ tales and ridiculously bad data—she set out to apply her economist training to the subject of parenting. What kind of sleep training is best? Formula or breastfeeding? Screen time, good or bad?The result was her book Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting from Birth to Preschool, which is worth reading and recommending to anyone with young kids. But what’s so interesting about the book is where it ends, which is not with some data driven insight but something completely anecdotal, and yet totally true. Oster, about to take her daughter on an international trip, anxiously asked the pediatrician what would happen if her daughter was stung by a bee while they were away. What if she’s allergic? What if something bad happens? You know the script, what if, what if, what if?The doctor’s reply: “I’d just try not to think about that.”As Emily explained in an interview:I think about that advice all the time because it’s pretty broadly applicable to a lot of things in parenting. We can get caught up in every tiny decision and miss the enjoyment of parenting and the part of this that’s supposed to be fun. It just pushed against some of my worse instincts as a parent to just obsess over everything. Sometimes you just have to accept that you cannot control everything. That’s hard, but it’s part of the fun. Also, the kid was eventually stung by a bee, and it was totally fine.Selective ignorance seems like a dangerous parenting strategy, and, of course, if practiced all the time, would be. But there is no way you’re going to be a good dad if all you do is worry about everything that could possibly happen. There’s no way you’ll be present or fun or attentive if your mind is constantly running through worst case scenarios. There’s no way you’ll get the big decisions right if you’re sweating every tiny decision. There are some things it’s better not to think about. There are some times when we just need to accept that we’re winging it. There are some problems we’ll just have to solve when we get to them--if we even have to get to them. In the meantime, we’ve got plenty of other things to do...so go do it!See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

3mins

12 Dec 2019

Rank #2

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You’ll Want Them To Come To You With Problems

When your kids mess up, what’s your reaction? Do you freak out? Or are you calm? Do you make the situation better...or worse? Can you actually listen? Or are you halfway through a solution before they’ve even gotten two words of explanation out of their mouths?The answers to these questions matter if, like a good dad, you want to be the kind of father who your kids turn to when they have a problem. You want them to come to you with their fears, with their secrets, with their dilemmas, don’t you?Well then you better make yourself the kind of parent that has earned that honor, that has earned that respect. Because it’s a privilege and not a right. Need proof? Think about your own parents and how many things you kept from them. Even more, why you kept it from them. Sure, some things we hide because we know it’s stuff we’re not supposed to be doing. But a lot of it is stuff we could have used their advice on, that we ached to connect over—but we knew we couldn’t. Because they would rush to judgment. Because they wouldn’t let us explain. Because it would trigger their anxiety or their temper or their moralizing reminders. You want them to come to you with problems? You want to help them? Then show them. Teach them that it’s worth doing. Teach them that they’ll get a fair hearing. Prove to them that you make things better and not worse. Let them see how you love them more than you hate any mistake. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

2mins

20 Mar 2020

Rank #3

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How Many Times Have You Been Told?

You’ve told them a million times. You told them why they need to study before their test, and they didn’t and they came home with a D. You told them about how their effort is the only thing they control in sports, and here they are, complaining—after refusing to take their training seriously—about why their friend gets more playing time. You’ve told them about manners. You’ve told them about not hitting their brother. You’ve told them why it’s important to keep their room clean.And yet, and yet and yet...Here you are. Looking at a dirty room. At bad grades. How many times do I have to tell you?, you hear yourself say. Are you deaf?Here’s a better question, one that might stop you cold: How many times have you been told? Not when you were a kid, but lately. About the importance of eating better. Of the relationship between exercise and weight. About how gross it is to bite your nails. To save for retirement. To read that important book. To update your operating system. And yet, and yet and yet...You’re still doing them. Or not doing them. You got a speeding ticket last month that cost you $250 and here you are still driving faster than you should. So why don’t you cut them a little break? Or at least be a little more understanding? Just because it’s clear what someone is supposed to do (or not do) doesn’t mean it’s easy. Especially when you’re a kid. Especially when your whole life is people throwing commands and demands at you. So relax. Be kind. Be patient. And maybe try to inspire them by showing them how it’s hard for you too—but you’re still trying. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

2mins

17 Jan 2020

Rank #4

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Just Listen. Just Listen. Just Listen.

Ted Williams was not a good father. We’ve written about this before, but it bears restating for our purposes here that while he was the greatest hitter to ever play baseball, he was quite literally the opposite as a father, totally neglecting the responsibilities of being a dad...until eventually his hardened exterior cracked. With time, and mostly due to the persistent efforts of his children, he began to connect and share with them. He began to be the father they had wanted and needed for so long. There is one scene in Wright Thompson’s profile of Williams’ daughter that shows Ted learning one of the most basic lessons of being a great father—one that we could all use a reminder of today (and, by the way, one that will make you a better husband and boss and person too). It happened when Claudia was going through a painful breakup. For some reason, she decided she would actually open up to her father about it, that she’d actually invite this man who had rejected her so many times when she was younger into her private pain. Almost immediately it became tense, a kind of argument about what to do. “Please don’t be mad,” she pleaded with him. “Just listen to me. I am hurting.”Williams grinded his teeth and struggled with his impotence towards another person’s problem. “What the hell do you want me to do about it!” he shouted. “I can’t do a fucking thing.Then Claudia said the words that every father needs to remember: “Just tell me you love me.”Then Williams said the words that every father needs to say: “JESUS CHRIST. I love you more than you’ll ever know. Most importantly, he did what you need to do more of, when your spouse has a problem, when your kids have a problem, when they come to you with news or with worries or with mistakes. He listened. Just listen. That’s all you have to do. You don’t always have to solve their problems You don’t have to tell them what they did wrong. You don’t have to make it go away. You just have to hear them. Because as often as not, what your loved ones are really looking for is love, not lessons. They don’t want fixes, they want friendship. They want a sympathetic ear, a confederate, someone to be on their side and to say “you’re right, screw those guys!”. You don’t need to have all the answers, you just have to let them know that you hear them and you love them. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

2mins

21 Jan 2020

Rank #5

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Teach Them It's Figureoutable

There’s a story that occurs constantly in the biographies of many creative and brilliant people. It goes something like this: As a kid they had a question—maybe it was about how car engines work, or what Antarctica is like. It doesn’t matter if the question is about history or science or animals, because their dads all had the same response. They said, “I don’t know, but let’s go figure it out!” So they went to the library or the hardware store or the computer and they dug around and they found they answer. What this experience did was instill the young versions of these notable figures with a few essential lessons that set them on their paths: 1) their fathers actually listened and cared; 2) curiosity is the starting point of a great adventure; and 3) there are places, like the library or the internet or some wise old neighbor, where answers can be found. Most importantly though, they learned something well-expressed in the title of Marie Forleo’s new book: they learned that “Everything is Figureoutable.” Problems can be solved. Ignorance can be eliminated. Answers can be tracked down. The unknown can be made familiar. Things can be discovered.Your job is to teach that. Today and every day. It’s to actually listen to their questions...and then help them find the answers. That doesn’t mean give them the answers. It means teaching them how to figure things out for themselves. Teach them to love the process. Teach them to get excited about it. Teach them to head to the library or the laptop, the telephone, or their science teacher. Everything is figureoutable. Big and small. But it takes someone to help them figure that out. It takes you.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

2mins

16 Dec 2019

Rank #6

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Make Sure You Make Time For Crazy

Douglas MacArthur was a man of routine, most military men are. So it shouldn’t surprise us that he built a family life around routine. But unlike far too many fathers who make routine a form of control, MacArthur’s morning routine was about fun—it was about starting the day off right.As the peerless William Manchester details in his book American Caesar, the morning time was one of the best times at the MacArthur household. In fact, it was kind of scheduled crazy fun: When Arthur began to walk, and then to talk, father and son developed a morning ceremony. At about 7:30 A.M. the door of the General’s bedroom would open and the boy would trudge in clutching his favorite toy, a stuffed rabbit with a scraggly mustache which he called “Old Friend.” MacArthur would instantly bound out of bed and snap to attention. Then the General marched around the room in quickstep while his son counted cadence: “Boom! Boom! Boomity boom!” After they had passed the bed several times, the child would cover his eyes with his hands while MacArthur produced the day’s present: a piece of candy, perhaps, or a crayon, or a coloring book. The ritual would end in the bathroom, where MacArthur would shave while Arthur watched and both sang duets.And it didn’t just happen when Arthur was young. As he got older, while his father ruled post-war Japan, Arthur would wake at 7am, and according to Manchester, “rush into the General’s bedroom and pummel him.We talked before about Ulysses S. Grant’s evening wrestling matches with his kids. We talked about the epic games in the yard that Harmon Killebrew’s father knew was killing his grass but helping raise his kids. Well, we shouldn’t just be talking about this, we shouldn’t just be thinking it was cute that MacArthur and Grant let their guard down at home. We have to do the same thing.No one is too important or too busy to have some crazy time at home. No one is above getting pummeled by their kid in bed. No father should hesitate before singing at the top of their lungs while they shave. These moments are the best moments. If they’re rare, you’re doing it wrong. They should be regular. Maybe like MacArthur, they should be scheduled every morning for 7:30.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

3mins

1 Jan 2020

Rank #7

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You Have To Be Flexible

When you read parenting books, it’s hard not to get the distinct sense that there is a right way to parent. That being a dad (or a mom) means following a set of processes—backed up and confirmed by research—and that to do anything else is to deviate and fail. We think the same thing about teachers too: Here is how the best teachers operate, so be like that. But the truth is that it’s all relative. There is no right way because every child is different, every parent is different, every situation is different. Think about the story of the prodigal son—it’s a lesson about a bunch of things, but one of the subtler lessons is that different kids require different treatment. The father in that story wasn’t being unfair. He was being what each of his sons needed. Recently, we asked the author James Frey (yes, that James Frey—the brilliant and controversial novelist; read Katerina or Bright Shiny Morning if you haven’t yet) what he’s learned about fatherhood, and he actually told us something pretty similar:Being a Dad is an ongoing process of learning and adjusting and adapting. That for each kid, at each stage of that kid's life, you have to adjust and learn. I have three kids. Two girls and a boy in the middle. Being a Dad, to me, isn't like being a drill sergeant. There is no single way to handle each child...I don't want them all to be the same person. They are each unique, with their own personalities and strengths and struggles. And they are radically different at different ages. And that requires me to constantly be learning how to best raise them.It’s great advice and worth thinking about today. You have to be flexible. You have to be willing to approach each situation as a distinct set of circumstances and conditions. There is no “right way” to do things, but there is always a “right thing” to do in each situation. Adjust until you find it. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

3mins

20 Jan 2020

Rank #8

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It's All Quality Time

You’ll hear other dads talk about the need for “quality time” with their kids. It’s sort of a strange phrase, if you think about it. Because it implies a kind of hierarchy of time that nobody has ever really bothered to define. There’s a judgement to it too, that maybe the time or experiences you—the busy, ordinary, doing-the-best-you-can dad—give your kids is not enough. The comedian Jerry Seinfield, who has three kids—an 18-year-old daughter, a 16-year-old son, and a 13-year-old son—pushes back against that. Special days? Nah. Every day is special. Every minute can be quality time:I’m a believer in the ordinary and the mundane. These guys that talk about "quality time" – I always find that a little sad when they say, "We have quality time." I don’t want quality time. I want the garbage time. That’s what I like. You just see them in their room reading a comic book and you get to kind of watch that for a minute, or [having] a bowl of Cheerios at 11 o’clock at night when they’re not even supposed to be up. The garbage, that’s what I love.Your job is not to entertain them. Or to curate every minute of their lives so that everything is meaningful and important and edifying. Your job is to be their dad. You job is to be there. To help them see that quality is what we make it, that it’s always within our reach if we so choose. Eating cereal together can be wonderful. Blowing off school for a fun day together can be wonderful—but so can the twenty minute drive in traffic to school. So can taking out the garbage or watching a garbage truck meander through the neighborhood. All time with your kids is created equal. What do you with it is what makes it special.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

2mins

2 Dec 2019

Rank #9

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Punishment Should Make Them Better

Punishments aren’t supposed to be fun. They’re suppose to deter bad behavior. That’s why kids get grounded or sent to their room. That’s why we take away their toys or iPad privileges. It’s supposed to send a message: Listen or you lose out. Randall Stutman is probably one of the most influential coaches you’ve never heard of. Basically every Wall Street bank and hedge fund of any significance has hired him as an advisor at one point or another. A lot of the CEOs and executives ask him about parenting. He has one piece of advice relating to consequences for bad behavior: Punishment should make them better.It’s pretty fitting advice coming from a coach too. Think about it: A basketball coach who is disappointed in someone’s effort, makes them go do sprints, or pushups. It’s not fun and it makes the kid stronger. A football player who didn’t make their GPA has to go to extra study sessions. An athlete who gets in trouble off the court might have to do community service or write an apology letter. These are more than simple deterrents. They’re punishments that make them better both as players and as people. When you get upset, when you catch your kid doing something they’re not supposed to do, Dad, make sure that you don’t punish out of emotion or out of fear. Take a minute. Come up with a punishment that makes them better. Something they wouldn’t choose to do, but is good for them. Vocab drills. Memorizing state capitals. Volunteering somewhere. Picking up trash. Painting the house. They won’t like it, but one day, they may actually thank you for it. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

2mins

3 Dec 2019

Rank #10

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Don’t Be A Dream Hoarder

There is a type of parent out there. Career-wise, they are killing it. They have a good marriage to an income-earning spouse and together they make good money. They live in a great neighborhood in an awesome house. They have good educations. They have smart kids. They go on nice vacations. And yet, they are constantly worried. Worried about money. About whether their kids will get into the right school and get the right jobs. About their taxes. About keeping up with the Joneses. About so many things. Everything looks great on the outside—and by any objective measure, it is actually great—but they are somehow still angry or anxious on the inside. Sure, there is a lot wrong in the world, and you never know when it could all go away (natural disaster, medical emergency, legal troubles, etc), but at the same time you’d think with how hard they work and all the things that have gone right, that life would at least feel a little easier. That they’d be comfortable. Maybe even...haNot so much. Instead, these parents respond to their inner turmoil by trying to exert even greater control over their external environment. Does this dissonance sound familiar? Maybe because you know these people. Perhaps there is a part of you that is these people. But do you know the term that sociologists and political observers have created for them? It’s not a particularly nice one: They’re called dream hoarders.Dream hoarders are the people who, in an attempt to soothe their own anxieties by securing their station in life and smoothing the path for their children, do things to control the world around them that have the effect of limiting opportunity and mobility for those “beneath them.” Dream hoarders are the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) who oppose the creation of more housing (because it would ruin the character of their neighborhood). They oppose school vouchers and magnet schools from the comfort and safety of their children’s private schools.  They favor legacy admissions standards to colleges over any kind of assistive programs that give the poor and underprivileged a boost. These are the people who complain about taxes directed at funding initiatives to help the greater good...despite being in the 1% or better. These people are immune from most of the real crises that are ravaging their country and the world, and instead turn their own piddly problems into World War III at school board and city planning meetings all across America. They have gotten what’s theirs, and their anxiety about being able to keep it forever has blinded them to the reality that so many others are barely getting by. Look, it would be ridiculous to criticize anyone for wanting to pass only advantages and privileges to your kids. That is, of course, the entire point of evolution. That’s why you have worked as hard as you have to get ahead, to build up the life you want. But we have to remember that our kids aren’t going to live in a bubble. They are going to have to make their way in the world—a world that the dream hoarders are increasingly turning into a battlefield of Rich vs. Poor, Us vs. Them. If we want our kids to enjoy the bounty we have worked so hard to give them, if we want them to take advantage of those opportunities in ways that make us proud and make them proud of themselves, then we can’t just think about our kids anymore. We have to think about “the children”—as in the neighborhood’s and the city’s and the country’s young people. We can’t hoard from them. We have to share. See Privacy Policy at

4mins

19 Feb 2020

Rank #11

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Epithets for Your Kid

One of the most interesting passages in Marcus Aurelius is this one:Epithets for yourself: Upright. Modest. Straightforward. Sane. Cooperative. Try not to exchange for others.These were essentially the words he wanted to live by—his principles expressed in the fewest syllables possible. At DailyStoic.com we’ve spent the last couple years talking about how important it is to figure out what these epithets are and to make sure we are living by them.But here is another way to look at. What if as a father you sat down—ideally with your co-parent—and fleshed out what those words mean for each of your children too? As in what kind of kid are you trying to raise? What are the watchwords that you are attempting to move them towards with your parenting?Some obvious ones:Kind.Loyal.Moral.Honest.And maybe some more specific ones to help them succeed in the worldCreative. Bilingual. Hard-working. A lifelong learner.Maybe to some dads it’s important for their kids to be athletic. Another, a reader. Others still that their kids live a life of service. There is a lot of room here for choice and most of the answers are right. But if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how can you expect to hit a target? How do you know you’re not accidentally teaching them to exchange one epithet for another? The truth is you can’t. So get writing.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

2mins

3 Dec 2019

Rank #12

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How to Get Them to Read (Or Do Anything)

We want our kids to read. We want them to read instead of watching so much TV or playing with the iPad. So we make up rules or create incentives to motivate them to pick up a book (I’ll give you a dollar for every book you finish this year). What we don’t do enough is actually the easiest and clearest form of teaching: We don’t provide a good example.How often do your kids catch you reading? How often do they see you with a book in your hands? You want them to read, but do you read regularly to them? You tell them books are important, that books are fun, but where is the evidence? If you want your kids to read more, show them what a reader looks like. Talk to them about books. Make books a central part of your house...and your lives. Think about those curse words they know. You’ve actually been trying to get them not to use them...but where did your kids pick them up? By watching you. And what’s true for books is true for just about anything—being healthy, being kind, being a hard workerSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

1min

3 Dec 2019

Rank #13

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This Is Proof You Have What It Takes

Who among us is not insecure? We look around and see people who make more money. Who have bigger houses. Who have accomplished more than we have. This insecurity is compounded by social media, but it is also timeless. There’s a story that Julius Caesar once stood in front of a statue of Alexander the Great. At the age Caesar was at that moment, Alexander the Great had already conquered the world. By comparison, Caesar had done almost nothing. While there might be some motivational benefits to this insecurity, it’s probably not the best way to live. And does anyone think they do good work while telling themselves they are not enough? Might fullness and confidence actually be a better place—cognitively, creatively, emotionally—to approach your work and your life from than craving? You don’t make great work feeling like a piece of shit. You make great work knowing you are capable of making great work. In any case, the Catholic activist—and possibly future saint—Dorothy Day had a good observation that we can think about today as a way of putting some of those insecurities to bed. Because whatever you do, wherever you are in your career and life, there is something you should be taking great satisfaction and meaning in—there is something you should be incredibly proud of yourself for: the person(s) you have created. As she writes:“If I had written the greatest book, composed the greatest symphony, painted the most beautiful painting or carved the most exquisite figure, I could not have felt the more exalted creator than I did when they placed my child in my arms...No human creature could recieve or contain so vast a flood of love and joy as I felt after the birth of my child. With this came the need to worship, to adore.” That feeling, that feeling you felt the first day you held your children. The feeling you feel when they run into your arms and call you daddy. Or when they come into your room to ask for advice. Or when you sit across the table from them and watch them eat. That feeling—the pride, the love, the connection—this is the feeling to carry with you. You made that. You were the exalted creator of that. It might not be a billion dollar tech startup, it might not be a Grammy-winning album or the Mona Lisa, but it’s one hell of a something. And it’s only the beginning. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

3mins

13 Jan 2020

Rank #14

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All You Can Do As a Dad

You might not think of Tom Hanks as a father, but he is one. He had four kids, two from his first marriage, Colin and Elizabeth, and two from his second, Chet and Truman. You might not think of Tom Hanks as someone who messes up, or someone who would struggle at something as wholesome as being a dad, but again, you’d be wrong. A recent New York Times profile spent some time talking with Hanks about fatherhood, and the reality of what it was like to have his first two kids while he was still an up and coming actor. Colin and Elizabeth were growing up while their father was still trying to get parts, trying to make a living and pay the rent, as Hanks puts it. But by the time Chet and Truman were born, he was long past that. They grew up with a dad who was much more secure, who didn’t have to audition anymore, who was famous and beloved. Does he feel guilty about some of those mistakes? Absolutely. How has it affected his parenting style? It’s made him much more understanding, much more patient, and ultimately, much more responsible. As he explained: It isn’t easy being a parent, not for any of us. Somewhere along the line, I figured out, the only thing really, I think, eventually a parent can do is say I love you, there’s nothing you can do wrong, you cannot hurt my feelings, I hope you will forgive me on occasion, and what do you need me to do? You offer up that to them. I will do anything I can possibly do in order to keep you safe. That’s it. Offer that up and then just love them.Beautiful, yeah? And humanizing, too? Look, if you think you’re not going to mess up as a Dad, you’re in for a rude surprise. If you think the struggles you’re going through in your career, in your marriage, in your life are not going to affect your kids, you’re being naive. But you can’t whip yourself about that. All you can do is try to learn from your failings and keep going. You can keep showing up and asking, “What do you need me to do?” You can offer that. You can love them.And if you keep doing it, you’ll get some of the flashes of a happy family that Tom Hanks talks about in the article, the kind that make life worth living.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

3mins

7 Jan 2020

Rank #15

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What’s The Contract You Have With Your Kids?

In 2009, after winning two National Championships as the head coach of the Florida Gators football team, Urban Meyer stunned the nation by announcing his retirement. The self-admitted workaholic, Meyer made the decision to step down due to a health scare. He woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains, lost consciousness, and was rushed to a hospital in an ambulance. He said that when his 18-year-old daughter, Nicki, found out her father would be leaving his job in Florida, she hugged him and said, “I get my daddy back.” She didn’t care about National Championships. She didn’t care about multi-million dollar salaries. She didn’t care about how many people admired her father. She cared that all those things meant her father was never around. So she drafted a contract he had to sign before he ever agreed to another coaching position. What were the terms?1. My family will always come first.2. I will take care of myself and maintain good health.3. I will go on a trip once a year with Nicki (at minimum).4. I will not go more than nine hours a day at the office.5. I will sleep with my cell phone on silent.6. I will continue to communicate daily with my kids.7. I will trust God's plan and not be overanxious.8. I will keep the lakehouse.9. I will find a way to watch Nicki and Gigi play volleyball.10. I will eat three meals a day.It’s a beautiful sentiment, reminiscent of something we talked about recently: King Leonidas choosing 300 Spartan fathers because he knew fathers do whatever they have to do to not let their children down. Would that be the case for Meyer? He returned to football in 2011, taking the head coaching job at Ohio State. In 2015, a caller on a radio show asked Meyer if he still honored Nicki’s contract. He laughed, saying "I tore that thing up a long time ago...It was all for show." Yikes. In 2019, he retired from Ohio State...due to the "long-term risks" associated with a health issue. It was also done in the shadow of mishandling domestic abuse allegations against his former receivers coach.Just because Urban Meyer fell short doesn’t mean the contract was a bad idea, it doesn’t mean we have fall short ourselves. What would a contract with your kids look like? What terms do you need to agree to to have a happier, healthier life? To protect you from your own drive and workaholism? To make sure your family is always firstSign it and stick to it.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

3mins

6 Feb 2020

Rank #16

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You Have One Job Today

Your job today as a father is to do one thing. It’s to read this poem, which dates back to 1895, and then to think about how to incorporate its lessons into how you raise your kids. Ignore the gendered language (it was written as advice to the poet’s son) because it doesn’t matter. There isn’t any child, boy or girl, at any age who won’t benefit from this wisdom. If— BY RUDYARD KIPLINGIf you can keep your head when all about you   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,But make allowance for their doubting too;   If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   If you can meet with Triumph and DisasterAnd treat those two impostors just the same;   If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spokenTwisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:If you can make one heap of all your winningsAnd risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,And lose, and start again at your beginningsAnd never breathe a word about your loss;If you can force your heart and nerve and sinewTo serve your turn long after they are gone,   And so hold on when there is nothing in youExcept the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,If all men count with you, but none too much;If you can fill the unforgiving minuteWith sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!Go!See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

2mins

3 Apr 2020

Rank #17

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It’s a Low Bar, But You Better Clear It

If you haven’t seen the fascinating Netflix documentary about Rachel Dolezal, a troubled woman who pretended to be black when she’s actually white, you should. It’s not worth getting into the controversial racial issues that the documentary brings up, but it’s worth watching them in the documentary, since it shows them in all their very human complexity and contradiction. What is worth noting here is a comment that one of Rachel’s adopted younger brothers (who she ended up raising herself) says about their missionary foster parents. He says something like: The one job of parents is to give their children a childhood they don’t have to spend years of therapy processing. Certainly that’s a low bar. The only lower bar is literally keeping them alive. But it’s worth bringing up because of how many parents fail to meet it, even as they succeed in other ways. Sure, you helped turn your son into a professional football player, but to do it, you cultivated an insatiable desire to win that prevents him from ever enjoying those victories. Or you got your daughter into Harvard, but you were so strict and demanding that her poor self-esteem makes her tolerate the worst kind of people in relationships. Your kids get one life. What kind of life are you raising them to have? They get one sense of self. Are you giving them a kind or a harsh one?The world would be a better place if dads took the time to actively think about what the ramifications of their decisions are going to be. Imagine your son or your daughter on a therapist’s couch in the future. Of course they’re going to be talking about you—that’s almost all anyone talks about in therapy. But perhaps that image might stop you from having that affair, it might make you go a little easier on them, it might help you respond better in that critical situation when they come to you and say, “Mom, Dad, I have to tell you guys something. This isn’t easy but...”Do you need to have that argument with your spouse? Can you let it go? Why not do something about your anger problem? (More on that here). Or your drinking problem? Or your weight problem? Maybe you don’t need to push your religious beliefs so hard? Maybe you can give them space to explore their own political leanings instead of belittling them? And at the same time, maybe if you were a little less busy and a little more attentive, maybe you’d stop missing all their cries for help or that problem that’s been brewing for some time?Your job is not to make them rich. Not to make them smarter than everyone else. All those trappings are extra. What your real job is, is to give them a childhood they don’t need therapy to get over. Start there.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

3mins

8 Jan 2020

Rank #18

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Why Kids Like Their Grandparents

Even if it wasn’t such a relief for overworked dads and moms, it’d hurt a little to think about how much our kids love their grandparents. It almost seems like they prefer grandma and grandpa sometimes, don’t they?Why is that?It’s pretty simple. Because grandparents have outgrown most of their baggage. They have let go. Even a lot of grandparents who were demanding and exacting parents seem to finally settle into themselves and manage to be exactly what the generation once removed needs. And kids can sense this: Grandma loves me for me. She’s so nice all the time. Grandpa just wants to hang out. He doesn’t try to make me do anything. He doesn’t boss me around or correct me, he just listens.Of course, this isn’t universally true...there are lots of bad grandparents out there. But what makes the great ones great is that they’re present, accepting, and proud. Traits that are unfortunately easy to lose sight of as busy, stressed out, and well-meaning parents.Which makes it a decent test to consider when we get really worked up or worried or upset with our kids: How would a grandparent think about this? What if I wasn’t such a dad about this? Would that make things better?See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

2mins

2 Dec 2019

Rank #19

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Where Is Your Ego Getting In The Way?

We live in a world awash with ego. We see it every day. We can see the ego of our boss, and how it has turned the office against them. We can see ego in politicians and professional athletes. We can see it in our kid’s teacher, perhaps, when they get in some pissing match with another parent or are threatened by a precious student. As they get older, we can even see ego in our own kids—thinking they can ace a test without studying or advance in sports without practicing.The laundry list of out of control egos is easy to write. But it’s interesting to think that putting it together may in fact be our own ego distracting us from ourselves. Because by focusing on the problems other people’s egos are causing we excuse ourselves from looking in the mirror at our own.Today and every day, dads should take a moment to just think about where ego is holding them back. Is the power struggle with your teenager actually over anything important or is this just you demanding to be in control? “You can’t learn that which you think you already know,” Epictetus once said. Well, what things are you holding yourself back from learning because you’re a know-it-all? The pissing contest you got into with a teacher? The pissing contest you’re still in with your dad? The hours you work, the money you spend, the car you drive—is there ego tied up in any of these? Any chance it’s warping your priorities? Any chance it’s getting you into trouble? Ego is the enemy. Always. Of everything, but especially of the things that really matter in this life: happiness, a family that gets along, improving, contentment, forgiveness, stillness.You know it. So stop thinking about other people and work on yourself. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

2mins

9 Jan 2020

Rank #20