My four siblings and I grew up in a Midwestern home with rigid boundaries and little monkey business. But, despite some of the old-fashioned rules, we were normal kids: silly, bickering monkeys who often drove our parents crazy.
My dad has mellowed out in recent years, but his household rules helped shape my parenting style. While some parental direction shifts with kids’ ages and stages and the arrival of grandkids, others are timeless standbys.
These are some things I learned from my dad.
One year when I was a teen, I let my mom’s birthday slide. I neglected to prepare a card or gift, and my dad gave me a stern talking-to. From then on I remembered to remember her birthday, Mother’s Day, and any occasion calling for a tribute. When it comes from Dad, the instruction to honor and respect Mother serves a two-fold purpose. Kids learn that the role of mom demands respect. They also realize that their dad loves their mom.
Don’t waste food
Around our dinner table, no clumps of mashed potato or stray peas sat idly on our plates. No sir, after dinner our plates had to be clean. My dad also disliked tossing out the ends or crusts of bread loaves. All food was to be eaten.
When my shorts were yay-high during my teen years, my dad took me aside to express his disapproval. I’m glad now that he didn’t shy away from the modesty issue or leave it to my mom. Coming from him, I took the counsel more seriously because I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable in his presence.
Use nice words
At my house, “shut up” was practically a swear word. “Crap” was never heard. Perhaps we were a bit naïve, and we still hurled all kinds of acceptable insults at each other. But learning that some language was too harsh or crude taught me to nix swearing and set language boundaries for my kids.
It’s OK to turn off the TV
My dad had an infamous three strike system with bad words and iffy content on TV shows. After three infractions, the show had to be turned off. You can imagine our discomfort while watching TV with my dad in the room, but it taught me some things. It’s OK to be picky. I learned that walking out of a movie theater or turning off a show takes courage, but it can be the right thing to do.
Stay out of the sun
As a teen in the 80s, I worked hard to camouflage my freckles under a deep, dark tan. Long hours were spent lounging in the sticky heat as I worked for that elusive tan. My dad’s warnings to get out of the sun or at least wear sunscreen fell on deaf ears. Oh, the folly of youth. The wrinkled face in my mirror tells me that Dad was right.
“The dullest pencil is better than the sharpest mind,” my dad taught me. My many notebooks, journals, and sticky notes are a testament to his wise counsel. Recording thoughts — from to-do lists to funny sayings from my kids to a meandering journal entry — helps me feel organized and aids my memory.
Save your money
As a child, money doesn’t come easily. When you have cash in your pocket it’s hard to set some aside for savings. I learned from my dad the wisdom in putting some away. I think this teaching helps people to learn self-control and become less selfish.
Life is hard. My dad taught me to take my childish concerns to God. My earthly father showed me that my Heavenly Father loves me and will send blessings when I ask for them. He passed on his faith in prayer to me.
Enjoy nature and the world
Our family had its share of camping trips by lakes and massive sand dunes, visiting national parks and monuments, climbing spectacular mountains and driving along boring stretches of highway with zero scenery. My dad and mom loved planning trips and showing their kids what our country has to offer. Our trips were often on a budget, but that didn’t prevent our family outings.
As you consider the things your dad taught you, it’s typical to sift through the good and bad. We tend to emulate the things our parents teach us. Celebrate your dad, grandfather or the father figure in your life by recording the great teachings he passed on to you.