As fathers, we must be mindful of how we behave around our children, because they will pick up far more of what they see than what they hear. In other words, far more is caught than taught. The average person needs to hear something seven times to truly take it in, and with kids, it can be even more.
Yet, one instance of watching you engage in a certain behavior can become instantly ingrained in their memory banks. With that in mind, here are eight behaviors every father should model to keep their children on a positive trajectory in their life.
#1: Healthy Breakfast Choices
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I developed food allergies later in life and breakfast can be a struggle. I started making myself a healthy smoothie for breakfast and my seven year old son Mason saw me making a smoothie and asked for one. I hooked him up with almond milk, frozen blueberry, banana, and frozen spinach smoothie!
Guess what happened next? The rest of my kids also started asking for smoothies in the morning. Now we have smoothie “mustaches” all around! They don’t have smoothies every day, but overall I was able to shape my kids’ breakfasts by allowing them to catch the positive behavior from my diet.
#2: Exercise Routines
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It’s not just diet we must model, but daily exercise as well. I wake up early and have an exercise routine I do each morning before my kids arise. I’m normally still in my exercise clothes when I wake them up for school in the morning and many times they will ask how my workout was. I desire for my children to have the same keystone habit of exercise first thing in the morning and have shown them simple ways to get in a quick workout in the morning.
My three boys make their beds first thing and then proceed to do push-ups, situps and calf raises. My daughter likes to do yoga first thing when she wakes up. I don’t make my kids do exercise in the morning, it’s something they’ve asked to do as a result of watching my daily exercise habits and rituals. My hope is they continue this keystone habit into adulthood and it sets them up for physical health along the way.
#3: Family Dinner Time
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Breakfast may be the most nutritionally important meal, but I like to say family dinner is the most relationally important meal of the day. The breakdown of family dinners is driving a wedge in the relationships between fathers and their children.
The velocity of our society and the mass of digital distractions has made gathering together for family dinner an exception rather than the rule. Dinnertime is where the magic happens for a family, is a centering point in the day, and is essential to maintaining a pulse on the family. Don’t forsake this time together.
#4: Good Digital Habits
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Social media and other software is made to be addictive. Every time people hear a ding about a new text, email, or alert, it creates a surge of dopamine (the pleasure-reward chemical) in the brain. So when our children use these apps, they’re getting surges of dopamine that’s causing them—and adults—to form a behavioral addiction.
We need to be mindful of our own screen time if we want to encourage our children to appropriately use digital technology. If we come home and immediately are on our cell phone or tablet, or we’re watching excessive amounts of TV, then how can we expect our children not to do the exact same thing that we’re modeling for them?
#5: Respect the Expenses
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Your children will most likely not learn about personal finance in school, so healthy financial habits is another important behavior to model for them. The first thing you have to do is create a budget, and include your children in budgeting conversations.
My kids don’t know everything about our income, but we certainly let them see a lot of what the expenses are so they start to understand the concept of money. When they see how much their private school costs, they’ll far more likely to behave in school.
#6: Don’t Always Use Plastic
Image credit: Unsplash // Sharon McCutcheon
We also live in a society where they can press a button and buy something. There’s no physical transaction, so another thing we’ve tried to do is show them the flow of money.
Before debit cards, we had to use cash at the grocery store and it stung a bit when you had to shell out $100, $150, or more. You feel that pain of flipping those 20s to pay for the groceries. Today, you insert a card in a machine and there’s no physical reaction to spending money. It’s invisible. Our kids don’t see that either, so I often let them use cash for purchases so they see the physical pain of how much something really costs.
#7: Save Money and Give Back
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Another component of personal finance we model for them is how to give and save. We give as a family to the church and to many charitable organizations. Outside of the church, we allow our children to be involved in who we give to. We’ve also chosen to use Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Junior methodology of 10%, 10%, 80%. When our kids make money, 10% goes as a tithe to the church and 10% goes to savings. The remaining 80% is theirs to spend, and my wife and I help guide them to make good decisions, but the 80% really is theirs to spend.
#8: How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything
Image credit: Unsplash // Clay Banks
A while back, we were walking out of the home improvement store Lowe’s to get in our car and leave when I noticed a little bag of washers the cashier missed. Our total receipt was over $100.00 and the washers cost about 20 cents. I could’ve let it go. My kids never would’ve known, but I told them we had to go back into the store and pay for the washers.
“I can’t believe you came back in here and paid for those, most people wouldn’t have done that” the attendant told me.
I told her my integrity was worth more than 20 cents and discussed with my kids the principle of how you do anything is how you do everything.
Justin Batt aims to disrupt fatherhood with intentionality, by creating intentional fathers who raise good kids who become great adults. He founded Daddy Saturday in his own backyard with his four children, and it’s grown into a national movement engaging fathers across multiple channels. This article is adapted from his book, Daddy Saturday.