This is a guest blog post from Scott Lesnick, author, speaker, trainer, and 24/7 Dad® facilitator at The Parenting Network located in Milwaukee, WI.
Since 1977, The Parenting Network has served the greater Milwaukee community through its mission to strengthen parenting and to prevent child abuse with programs such as home visiting, parent education and support, fatherhood programs, and more.
Raising my children was a 24/7 job. And as a volunteer facilitator of the 24/7 Dad® Program at The Parenting Network in Milwaukee, I’ve heard from thousands of fathers who agree.
Every group of fathers I work with teaches me something new, and after ten weeks, we all feel better and even wiser. Parents who came in with a chip on their shoulder often graduate with a smile, extend a warm thank you (which isn’t easy for some) and say that they’ve learned some valuable and positive lessons that they WILL use in parenting their children.
I am confident that participant fathers are not only better equipped with positive, hands on ways to parent when they leave, but they also have a greater understanding of how their childhood shaped their adult lives as it pertains to parenting. Yes, really connecting to our children and treating each as the individual they are is the key to their growing up with good self-esteem. It takes a daily interest, a commitment that some did not see when they were young. Talking, listening, setting proper boundaries and playing are wonderful.
Further, breaking the cycle of physical and verbal abuse is a challenge, but many parents are able to, for the first time, really understand how they would feel if it happened to them. Anger, remorse and contemplation often set in, but the group is always supportive.
It’s also a pleasure to watch the group’s reaction as I offer up how parents are always on their children’s radar. Children watch us like a camera making mental notes and comparisons hundreds of times a day. When you look at us adults from a kid’s perspective and realize were being “recorded” by them both consciously and subconsciousl,y it allows us to focus on what we say and how we react. This makes for better relationships with our children and strengthens our parenting skills.
Of course, I’m not under the assumption the fathers we work with are angels. Some have served serious time behind bars and others are completing the class in order to spend more time with their children. But nonetheless, they open up about things I never imagined I’d hear and it takes the breath out of many in the class. But, we talk. We discuss. Some even grow- maturing before my eyes. We stay on topic as it pertains to that week’s lesson and these parents are engaged! They’re thinking, talking, and debating all things parenting. That’s the golden ticket!
To make sure that the dads are getting tangible, applicable skills they can apply to their relationships (with mom and kids), I ask for 1-3 takeaways from each before he leaves the session. As a result, I can know if the handbook, our classroom discussions, my facilitating, and/or their peer interaction is moving them forward by how they answer. Some talk for five seconds and others 30 minutes! For example, I have heard: “Man. You opened my eyes. I’m not going to be like how “so-and-so was to me growing up.” “I never knew why I acted like that - why I hit my kids instead of talking more. I get it now!”
I wanted to give back. I wanted to help fathers become better parents. The Parenting Network allows me to connect to parents who not only leave the course a better and more knowledgeable parent, but often remind me of some things I did well in raising my two children. I wish programs like this were made available to all those who want to improve their parenting skills. I know I could have definitely used it when my children were younger, and I suspect most of us could.
Surprisingly, some participants come back to the fatherhood program observe, add content and opinion, plus continue to grow. How can I say no? Their kids deserve nothing but the best.
Facilitating groups isn’t always easy. But being there to facilitate and watch groups connect, understand and add positive content is.
If you have any questions for Scott about his experience as a 24/7 Dad® Facilitator, he can be reached at email@example.com.Scott is also a member of the National Speaker’s Association and his speaking engagements center around parenting topics, increasing performance, focusing on what’s important, and useful tools in overcoming life’s challenges.