Dads, what if you were given one opportunity to impart wisdom to your children? Just one shot to tell them what really matters, the essential information they need to learn before they leave home and venture out into the world. What lessons would be the most important to you?
Personally, I would use this opportunity to tell my kids how important it is to listen to the advice offered by those who’ve lived—and seen—more. I challenge my kids to seek advice from others, as there is a good chance that they’ll find someone who has faced similar challenges—and might offer a new take on a situation. Yes, kids often fall into the trap of thinking that they alone have all the answers, but trust me on this one: experience provides the ability to better predict outcomes. Gaining knowledge from experience will help to better inform future decisions.
In the spirit of seeking advice from others, we asked local fathers to weigh in. Here are the lessons that 10 local fathers would give to their children, to guide them as they journey from childhood to adulthood.
To My Children,
I need to tell you a few things. I’m trying, day by day, to teach you the things you need to know, to be the best person you can be in this world. Most of the advice I have for you was given to me by my parents or some other adult, somewhere along the way. Please let me share with you what I’ve learned. May you accept these lessons with my love.
- Honor those older than you. You only get one chance to make a first impression. You should always address your elders respectfully with their proper title, such as Mr., Mrs., Doctor or Reverend. They have earned this respect through their life’s experiences and hard work. You want them to hear you recognize and respect that fact. If you approach each person you meet with proper respect, they will always respect you enough to remember your face (if not your name), and will listen when you speak to them. And at the very least, you will be a good role model for those younger than you. (Geoff Bice, father of two)
- Be humble in victory and proud in loss. Winning seldom comes from the effort of a single person, and no one wants to hear bragging. When you win, show respect for your teammates and others who have helped you to victory. And showing empathy (to the opponent) is always a good rule to follow in victory. Remember that there is no shame if you do your best and come up short of victory. It is easy to learn when you are winning, but both teams and individuals excel when they learn from losses and focus on what can be changed next time. Don’t feel shame for the loss, but rather pride in the effort. (Brett Burleson, father of four)
- Share what you’ve been given. Yes, even adults need to be reminded of this from time to time. Always keep your eyes and heart open to those that need help or just a little encouragement. You have been given much, and with that comes a responsibility to help others. The world will tell you to look out for yourself first; I say to first instead look out for others in need of a helping hand. (Brad Stone, father of four)
- Be quick to forgive. One of the most important things I want you to embrace is forgiveness. Forgiveness keeps you from anger, bitterness or holding a grudge. There will be many times in your life when you feel like someone has wronged you and the easy thing to do is to retaliate in anger. This approach will only impact you negatively. Our Christian faith tells us that God wants us to love one another; when we choose to love everyone in and through every situation and try to see them as God does, then we can truly understand and start to see the depth of this love. Forgiving others allows you to maintain great character, mental clarity and truly be free to become the person you are supposed to be. (Chris Shepherd, father of three)
- Never take time for granted. Inside each of us is someone else’s miracle. You have a God-given purpose, and if you carelessly stroll through life without paying attention to those around you, you may pass by a person waiting on you… their miracle. Be intentional in everything you do and look for opportunities to help someone in need. You never know when you may need a miracle. (Jeff Buchanan, father of five)
- Take care of your body. The human body is an incredible workmanship that is capable of doing amazing tasks when it is properly trained, nourished and hydrated. Try to set aside 30 to 60 minutes a day for vigorous activity that will challenge and improve your body. The results of sensible living will have an exponential impact at home, work and play because people who feel better, do better. You have one life and one body, take care of it! (Kevin Polcovich, father of two)
- Save money for bad days. I come from a generation that tends to spend more than we make and to use credit cards to pay for things that we can’t afford. My wish for you is that you avoid the mistakes of my generation. Money—or lack of money—should not control our lives. Preparing will help you to weather the ups and downs. The one constant in life is change and you need to be prepared. My advice to you is to live on 70 percent of your household income and save the rest. Put it away and don’t touch it. Don’t wait until later in life, do this with your first paycheck. When emergencies happen you will be prepared to weather the storm. If you are lucky to avoid the storms, then you will be in a unique position to serve others with your generous heart. (Scott Bell, father of one)
- Believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s in school, sports or life; the two things that you can control are attitude and effort. If you have the right attitude and give maximum effort, you can do anything. If you ever find yourself faced with doubts, questions or fears, remember these words: “God believes in you, I believe in you, you simply need to believe in yourself.” Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything; your dreams are your possibilities. Dream BIG! (Scott Williams, father of two)
- Help others. Life is made up of good times and bad times, and through it all, people are the most important thing. Value the relationships you have with others. Pay attention to the people around you, and when you see that someone’s going through a rough patch, do whatever you’re able to make it easier for them. Money and things come and go, but what people really need is to know that they’re not alone, and that there’s always hope. (Ryan Hukill, father of five)
- Believe in something bigger than yourself. In this world, many people live their life focused only on themselves. They think that if they make more money or own more stuff that they will be happy and satisfied. What they find, though, is completely opposite of that. No matter how much they have, they are never really happy and they still want more. God did not intend for us to live this way. We find true happiness when we seek to help others, especially those in great need. You were created by God to make a difference in this world, to do something very special that only you can do, something bigger than yourself. Life is short, and the world is waiting. God wants to do something amazing through you that will make you happier than you could ever imagine! (Trevor Williams, father of three)
I love you,
Eric Urbach lives in Edmond with his wife Amy, where he is a father of three and step-father of two.