Many of you know of Dave Ramsey from his popular radio show and the many books and courses he provides on managing your finances. He and I have spoken together often on his radio show, and he has also been a guest on my podcast. Most recently, Dave wrote a fabulous foreword to my new book, “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need.”
Dave has been such a wonderful champion of my message about the importance of fathers in our world today, and now, I am honored to have the opportunity to champion him as a father.
I recently had the unique opportunity to talk with all three of Dave and Sharon Ramsey’s adult children, Denise, Rachel and Daniel, all of whom work alongside him today. We talked about what it was like growing up in the Ramsey household, the lessons they learned from their dad (whom they respect immensely), and how they were shaped by those experiences.
Hearing Denise, Rachel and Daniel talk about the character qualities their dad displayed that they most admire and strive to emulate today was inspiring. One definition of parenting success is raising kids in such a way that they still want to be around you as adults.
The truth is, dads have the power to shape their kids’ worlds, whether they realize it or not. The dads who don’t understand this are more likely to parent haphazardly and without focus, often resulting in kids who feel unprotected, insecure, and unsure of their worth. The dads who do realize this are much more likely to be intentional about the kind of dad they choose to be: the character qualities they display, how they behave when no one else is watching, and their ability to lead and invest in their family.
I’ve identified three key areas for parents to focus on, especially dads, when it comes to understanding how their actions and behaviors today are constantly shaping your child’s world tomorrow.
1.) Be a good model to your kids. You’ve heard the saying, “More is caught than taught.” Your kids are watching you all the time. They are looking for signs and clues that show them what you think about them; for example, do you like what they are doing, do you like how they are dressed? These perceived opinions and thoughts become a part of your child’s identity.
Kids are also great mimics. You know this because you’ve probably caught yourself on occasion saying a phrase or term as a parent that your mom or dad said to you when you were a kid. This is very important to realize. If you want your children to grow up to be strong, capable, kind and truthful adults, you have to model that for them. Make sure to examine yourself and how you act, speak and model yourself to your kids. If you want your children to have integrity and be truthful, are you living honestly around them? If you want your children to be kind to others, are you gracious and caring to people in your own life?
Where there was discipline, there was also grace and kindness.
2.) Small moments make the biggest impacts on your kids. A lot of parents get hung up on doing the momentous for their children, e.g. taking them on a big trip, buying them the latest gadget, etc. — but it’s really the small moments that you have with them that are shaping who they will become. In the parenting economy, the small moments outweigh the big ones.
Rachel talks about how her father set a lot of boundaries for her as a kid, but in a way that she doesn’t portray him being a harsh, dictator-type dad. He was strong with her and gave rules. She shares a wonderful story about how he would spend time with her after he had to discipline her, and how those little moments impressed upon her that wherever there is discipline, there is also grace and kindness. Though those moments were small, they were very important lessons that had a huge impact on her throughout her growing up.
3.) Don’t be afraid to be the authority in the home. Those of you who have heard Dave Ramsey on the radio will know that he has a very strong personality — and his kids obviously grew up with a strong dad. This is very important to note because you’ll hear them talk about how they each gained a lot of self-esteem and self-confidence by living under an authority (not an oppressive or overbearing authority), but one that made them feel safe and secure.
They felt that they could look up to their parents and respect their father (because kids love to please dad). If kids know what their fathers want and they know that their fathers are invested enough to give them a curfew, to tell them what they can and can’t do, and to step up and tell them “no” when the occasion arises, deep down your child will feel safe, valued and loved.
Kids need parents to parent. They don’t need more friends. I’ve spoken to enough dads to know that even the really good ones are scared to be the authority figure because they don’t want to be overbearing. But it’s a blessing for kids to have a dad who’s the authority in the home. It makes a bigger difference than you realize.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the best-selling book “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” as well as a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.