Co-Host of Hallmark’s “Home & Family” Mark Steines offers advice on some crucial aspects of raising kids as a single dad in today’s complex and tech friendly world.
1. Mark, in today's media friendly world, how do you keep your kids focused on communicating in a personal way, especially given that you are in the media?
MS: In short, eye contact. Its hard enough to get kids to stop mumbling and turning their head away from you when they are speaking with you so my goal is to teach them the importance of eye contact and voice projection. When my oldest son texts with me I make great efforts to show him where misjudgments and misunderstandings can lie in his messages and that it would be clearer and much easier and quicker if he just called. I make attempts to get them to text facts only, i.e. directions, locations, numbers, etc. When the time comes I will also make it clear that you never ask a girl out on a date via text!
2. How do you teach you boys to be caring and respectful?
MS: Teaching empathy is a difficult thing but is vital when trying to get my children to understand others concerns and issues. Respect is a big thing in my house and I feel we have a firm understanding of what that means. When my father passed away this past September, my sons were so caring and gentle with my mom. Though it was a difficult time for all of us I could help but pause and watch as they usher my mother, their grandmother, into the church of the funeral. They were just 9 and 11 at the time but I saw a small glimpse of them as young men and I liked what I saw.
3. What tips can you offer to single dads on raising emotionally supportive boys?
MS: I believe it’s hard to teach something you know little about. Its critical that fathers model the behavior they want to see in their children. I push back when I hear people say "well its was a generational thing" or that "my dad never showed his emotions and I turned out ok." These are all copouts. Kids are smart and they look to you for guidance and if you are not authentic and real with them they will learn to be the same when they grow up. Fathers need to be emotionally supportive so their children understand what it feels like to have that need fulfilled. Its important they know how good it feels to have someone, i.e. dad, who can be accessible and vulnerable and yet strong. Though eyes of a 10 year old son we as fathers can still leap tall buildings, the also need to know we can do it with a full heart.
4. Do you believe men are less emotional compared to women in general, and how does that factor in to raising boys vs girls?
MS: I think we are all capable of feeling, but to some extent I feel men can be more emotionally stable, or closed off, or limited than women. This is not meant to be a statement about which is the better gender, rather that we are different and that’s ok. As a single father raising two sons I have it a bit easier because I have boys. I’m sure there would be different challenges if I had a daughter. I don't know how other single fathers run their household, but for me I also strive for an emotional balance. I feel that provides the best environment for raising children. The late great John Wooden once told me during an interview that the only two things you need in life is love and balance. I chase those two things everyday.
5. What's the most important value you work on instilling in your kids and why?
MS: There are several values that are important and on any given day rotate in the "top" position. I strive to teach my children responsibility, respect and compassion for others, what is morally right and wrong, honesty and the value of handwork, but I think at the end of the day I think managing their anxiety and to not be afraid of the dark. I teach them that we all are afraid and that as their father I'm afraid of not doing all the right things, but trust is a big factor and that no matter what we must move forward and not let our fear guide our journey.
Emmy award-winning journalist Mark Steines hosts Hallmark Channel’s Emmy-nominated "Home & Family." After more than 17 years on "Entertainment Tonight," Steines and his co-host Cristina Ferrare entertain and inform their audience daily with an array entertaining and relevant lifestyle topics, do-it-yourself projects, cooking, celebrities and experts. An avid hands-on do-it-yourself guy, Steines enjoys spending his free time fixing, remodeling and restoring all things in disrepair. He resides in Los Angeles and Ojai, California with his two sons. Online he can be found on twitter at @Marksteines or at www.Marksteines.com.