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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Social-Emotional Learning and Father's Day

Maurice Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service

This Sunday, Father's Day, would have been my father's 92nd birthday. It's a day that reminds me how important it is to show our fathers how much we appreciate them while we have them with us.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see how well you are doing. You can also draw from some of these as an emotional intelligence-building activity with your students. It might help to refocus their future Father's Days (and yours) toward giving more enduring gifts than typical purchases.

When Was The Last Time You Told Your Father...

When was the last time you told your father what he's done for you that you really appreciate?

...what you really like about him?

...how he supports you?

...what he's taught you?

...how much you enjoy making him proud of you?

...that you love him?

Some Other Questions

When was the last time you did something together that you enjoyed?

When was the last time you asked him to tell you stories about his life, his early teen years, as a young adult, his military service, his first jobs or stories about his parents and grandparents?

When was the last time you apologized to your father for losing patience with him?

How long has it been since you have given your father a hug or kiss?

Have you ever dedicated something to your Dad, like a book, a painting, something you have made or built, even something you have added to your home, and held a serious or semi-serious ceremony about it? ("Dad, in your honor, since you love driving so much, I am dedicating my next car to you and nicknaming it after you. Your grandchildren will be making speeches, followed by several of your friends presenting you with the Golden Steering Wheel Award, donated by a local junk yard.")

When Was The Last Time You...

When was the last time you shared with a friend something about your father, or asked about his or her father?

When was the last time you thought about how you are like your father, and how you are different?

...talked to your father about his dreams and hopes, or shared your dreams and hopes with him?

...told your father how much you appreciate his hard work for you?

...talked with him about the favorite things you used to do together? Still do together? (One of my favorite memories is my father teaching me how to build houses out of playing cards. I was amazed by the challenge and by his patience.)

As For Those Not So Great Fathers...

When was the last time you expressed thanks that you were never mistreated, dishonored, or disrespected, at lest in any serious way? If you can't say this, consider some advice by some individuals who have written about negative experiences with parents. They have given this advice: "Ask yourself, when your parents bore you, and when they looked at you for the first time, do you think their plan was to hurt you?" Also, these same advice givers talk about living in the present, and that moving forward in one's life means leaving the past behind -- something strongly confirmed by research in SEL/emotional intelligence.

Thanks, Dad

As I got older, I was able to share my appreciation more with him, but not as much as I realize now I should have. So here are a few things I would like to be able say to him on Father's Day:

Dad, you taught me that providing for your family is worth six long days of hard work every week. That it pays to be honest with people. That it really is the simple things in life that matter most. That it's special to be a Yankee fan. That a good piece of bread is like manna, and that egg creams and chocolate snaps ARE manna. That no set of traffic directions is too trivial to discuss or debate. That time with your family is the best way to spend your time. That good music is good dance music. And that nothing is more important to you than your child. Thanks, Dad. I love you.

Happy Father's Day.




Maurice Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service
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Mark Wilding's picture
Mark Wilding
Ed PassageWorks Institute

Thank you Maurice... I learned so much from my Dad - the kinds of things that can only be learned from a powerful unconditional relationship and watching someone you love and respect -- very closely - to see how they live their life. My son's father's day message to me was that he was proud of me... perhaps the greatest father's day gift I have ever received. I often feel those eyes watching me -- of my children, my students, and now my grandchildren... I take the responsibility very seriously - I hope to live up to the example of a great teacher that I had. - Thanks Dad!

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