[Moore, T. 2000. The Wonder of Fathers: Connecting with Your Children. In The Charlotte Post, (June) ]

(This article is excerpted from Dr. Moore’s keynote address to the International Fatherhood Conference in New York City, June 2000. It originally appeared in The Charlotte Post.)

Good morning! Good after-breakfast! Good after-sausage biscuits! Sometimes when I’m with children, I’ll say something like that to get them thinking about what’s going on in their lives. If you can get involved in children’s lives, and introduce new ways of seeing, children will start doing wonderful things with you. That’s what education is all about. Some parents are intimidated by teachers, believing teachers have more knowledge. Teachers do have lots of information, but education depends upon connecting with a child. You, as a father or community figure, can support a child’s educational growth and development by connecting in very simple ways. Here’s an example. Sing, “How much is that doggie in the window?” to your son in a regular voice. Point when you want him to bark in the right spots. Then sing in a higher voice. Ask for his “small dog bark.” Last, sing in a low voice, and ask for his “big dog bark.” Your child will remember that time with you forever. My dad has a way of spicing up a song. When he forgets the words, he invents new ones. Children do that, too. Once, a little girl came up to me and sang, “Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb, Mary had a little lamb, and that’s all I know.” That child was saying, “I feel good about my world. I’m not afraid to do what I can do. That which I can’t do, I can fill in the blanks.” That’s what education is about – filling in the blanks. Sometimes, adults get so excited about their knowledge that they forget their audience – the child. I once sang part of an Italian aria to a group of four-year-olds. One boy told me, “That’s funny!” This little boy was saying, “I’ve been in the world four years – never heard an Italian speak in my life. My mother can’t speak Italian. My father can’t speak Italian. My teacher can’t speak Italian. And here you are speaking Italian to me. Can’t use it!” A lot of times kids act up because they can’t use the information we are sharing. If you give children information that’s usable, they’ll play with it. Now, when I want to show children about opera, I sing “Twinkle Twinkle” in English, in an operatic voice. The opera singer likes to stretch his or her words. Children will play with each other’s names like that, too, if you encourage them. We need to give children experiences that are manageable for them. We also need to reeducate fathers so they feel successful. Years ago when I was teaching at the University of Southern Mississippi, I worked with a group of Head Start fathers. I talked to them about reading to their children. Often when I read to children, I’ll spend five minutes on a page with two lines. The kids will catch on and say, “Those words aren’t in there! You’re making up a story!” The fathers were excited by that idea. One told me, “I can’t read all that well, but I can tell a story.” I’m telling you this: You are readers and storytellers. You are dancers. You are singers. Share your talents with your kids. And don’t tell me you can’t sing. If someone asks you where you studied singing, tell them you studied with Dr. Thomas Moore. If you talk about how you can’t sing, your kids are going to say they can’t sing – and they’ll lose something precious. As you’re sharing with children, remember they need to be the experts from time to time. I was teaching a dance once and a girl told me, “You can do the butterfly with that.” “What’s the butterfly?” I asked. She showed me, and she also told me about it. That interaction helped her become more comfortable with words. When it’s time for her to write, it will be easier for her to do if she’s comfortable having conversations. I’ll be 50 in a few months, and I’ve learned the wisest people in my life are the ones who love me. Your infant daughter watches you because she knows: I will learn more from this man than I will learn from anyone else, because this man loves me. If you want your children to learn, love them. The more you love them, the more you will grow, too. Play more, talk more, listen more, spend more time with the children you adore, and you’ll find miracles will happen.

© Thomas Moore, 2000 Thomas Moore, Ph.D is a keynote speaker, workshop leader, early childhood consultant, and children’s recording artist. He is author of Gryphon House award-winning teacher resource books “Where is Thumbkin?” and “Do You Know the Muffin Man?”. He is contributing author of Wright Group/McGraw-Hill’s curriculum, DLM Early Childhood Express and author of their literacy series “Music, Movement and More”. He has also produced ten recordings for children.