Dr. Todd Cartmell is a favorite Hearts at Home workshop speaker.  He’s the author of several books, including Project DadRespectful Kids, and Keep the Siblings-Lose the Rivalry.  Currently practicing in Wheaton, Illinois, Dr. Cartmell and his wife, Lora, have two sons.  For more parenting encouragement, you can find Dr. Todd on his website and on Facebook, too!
With Father’s Day just around the corner, today’s Workshop-On-The-Go is for dads.  In fact, Dr. Cartmell’s new book Project Dad, just might make a great Father’s Day gift.  I’m giving away two copies of the book today in a random drawing from those who participate in our conversation!

The Dad Connection

Madison was sitting across from me on the big blue couch in my office.  Her eyes were filled with tears as she described a damaged relationship with her father.

“He always yells at me, even when it’s just about something little,” she said in a soft voice.  “I know I should listen better, I just wish he didn’t have to yell.”

This was not the first time I had witnessed the breakdown of a relationship between a father and a child.  I have listened to both boys and girls with tears streaming down their cheeks as they told me about a distant or damaged relationship with their father.

Madison’s tears were not tears of anger.  They were tears of hurt and sadness, longing for the close relationship she desperately desired with the most important man in her life.

Her dad.

Your Relationship Bridge

Almost every day, I see boys in my office whose pockets are filled with little LEGO Star Wars figures, typically Jedi knights, clone troopers, or something of the sort.  Building things just seems to be part of their DNA, much like a natural aversion to Dancing with the Stars is part of mine.

Perhaps this is God’s way of preparing us dads for one of the most important building projects we’ll ever undertake: Building a strong relationship bridge with our kids.  Just as every project has its steps, here are four steps for building a relationship bridge (and protecting it) that your kids will love.

Build the Bridge

Step One: Connect with touch. I know of few things that are more powerful than physical touch in creating a strong relationship connection with your kids.  When a child receives a warm hug, kiss, or gentle squeeze on the shoulders or arms from their dad, they are unmistakably reminded of one powerful message: their dad loves them.

Step Two: Connect with time. In the busy world of the modern dad, there are many important things that demand him to selflessly sacrifice his time, such as work, rubbing his wife’s feet, and of course, checking on his fantasy baseball team twenty-four hours a day.

In the midst of all this, however, there are three simple things that dads can do to get connected and stay connected with their kids:

-Regularly ask them about school, friends, and activities

-Invite them to play a game or go on an outing

-Pray with them at bedtime

Protect the Bridge

Step Three: Pause and take a deep breath. As it was for Madison’s father, discipline situations are often where our relationship bridges get damaged.  One of the best ways to protect your relationship bridge from your own anger is to pause for a second BEFORE you enter a discipline situation.

In that second, take a deep breath and ask God to help you be the kind of coach he wants you to be—one that teaches the right lessons with a warm and loving style that strengthens the bridge, rather than damages it.

Step Four: Be firm, but always self-controlled and respectful. As a dad, you will most certainly need to be firm at times, such as when anyone comes within 100 yards of the television remote control.

However, you can be firm, self-controlled, and respectful all at the same time.  These are not opposite concepts (e.g., “Which should I be today, firm or self-controlled and respectful?  Ohhh, I just can’t decide.  Oops, it’s time to check on my fantasy baseball team again!”).

When you teach your kids important lessons in a self-controlled and respectful way, two wonderful things happen: your kids’ defensiveness decreases and their openness to the lessons they need to learn increases.

A Bridge Repaired

I’m happy to report that when Madison’s dad realized how his angry style was damaging his relationship bridge, he immediately apologized to Madison and began building his bridge instead of tearing it down when he needed to correct her.  He’s been continuing to build it ever since.

Here’s the good news: God made every dad to be a great dad.  Not perfect, but great. And a great dad will build a strong relationship bridge with his kids and keep it strong.  Then, he’ll get to work on his fantasy football team.

Would you like to enter to win a copy of Dr. Cartmell’s Project Dad book?  Simply share this: What are your plans to celebrate Father’s Day? I’ll announce the winner on Saturday!

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