Dad’s: What will you be doing with your children during the holiday break from school?

There are two stories about fathers and sons that I believe illustrate the difference between how fathers interacted with their children.

Father-Son Fishing

My minister related the first story to our congregation a few years ago. It was about a day of fishing long ago.

Charles Francis Adams, the son of John Quincy Adams took his son, Brook fishing. Brook kept a journal and his entry for that day was:  “Went fishing with my father–the most wonderful day of my life!” It turns out that Charles Francis Adams also kept a journal. His entry for the very same day was: “Went fishing with my son today–a day wasted.”

That entry might seem incredible today, but I do not think so.  I remember Harry Chapin’s wonderful song “The Cat is in the Cradle” and the lyrics:

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play”
“Can you teach me to throw?”
I said, “Not today, I got a lot to do”
He said, “That’s ok”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah”
“You know I’m gonna be like him”

I read  about a Cornell University study from several years ago that found the average father spends 38 seconds per day being totally attentive to his children’s needs and about 20 minutes a day being partially attentive. The same children spend 54 hours per week watching television.

I am hopeful things have changed since that study. I recently saw an article: Today’s parents spend more time with their kids than moms and dads did 50 years ago.

Green and Clean

The second story is “Green and Clean” and I read it many years ago in Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Stephen Covey told about giving his seven year old son responsibility for the yard work and making the yard “green and clean” and volunteered to be his son’s helper.

For several days, Stephen Covey looked at the yard and nothing had been done. Stephen Covey asked his son: “How’s the yard coming?” The son replied: “Fine, Dad.”

After dinner Stephen Covey suggested they take a look at the yard. As they walked out in the yard his son began to sob and said: “It is so hard, Dad.”

Stephen Covey asked if there was anything he could do to help. That broke the ice.

His son went in the house and got a bag for Stephen Covey to use to pick up garbage from a barbeque. According to Covey, his seven year old son only asked for help a couple of more times that summer and the yard was greener and cleaner than ever before.

You can watch Dr. Covey tell the story in the video below.

Do you have the patience to be your children’s helper and teach them to take responsibility, or would you just take over the task?