Part of our work involves helping with development training for some players in the NFL. Not long ago, I was talking with one player and trying to help him through a tough time that was made worse because of his drinking habit. So I asked him, “Where did you first take a drink?” And he told me, “I drank a beer with my dad.”
I can remember another time when a young man had been drinking, then got in a car with his buddies and had an accident. All the other guys in the car either died or had serious injuries, but this young man came out fine, though he served a short time in jail. He came to me afterward to talk about it, and again I asked him, “Shoot me straight. When’s the first time you ever took a drink?” He said, “With my dad.”
Now, most dads would never intentionally initiate their son into a potentially destructive habit like this or hand their child a bottle of something dangerous. But that’s exactly what can happen if we let our guard down. Please remember, dad, that you can communicate values in all sorts of ways.
Your kids are watching you, to be sure. They know if your walk matches your talk, and if you’re inconsistent there, your kids may be vulnerable in those areas, too. Some image or memory of you during their childhood could come back and shape an important decision they face as adults.
And then, maybe just as important, be careful about what you approve of through silence or inactivity. So often the message of the world goes against your values, but your kids don’t know that because you don‘t say it. They need to hear from you—early in life. If they don’t, it’s reasonable for them to assume you’re indifferent, and they’re free to choose.
I hope you can see how important it is to communicate values to your children—through your words and your example.
So, dad, do you want your kids to end up like you? The good and the bad? You can bet that your children will reflect the personal values you consistently live. And that can be good news … or bad news. The choice is yours.
Carey Casey is CEO of the National Center for Fathering and the author of Championship Fathering. Read more about Carey.