Despite all of the challenges when it comes to raising kids and the married life, what does it really take to become an awesome dad? Larry Hagner joins Shana James, the Founder of The Good Dad Project, to share his parenting strategies focused on calmness, allowing him to create a meaningful connection with his four boys. Larry boasts how this led to amazing communication between him and his kids, allowing them to become extremely open and frank to one another. He also presents some of the most common pitfalls fathers have to face to become more responsible and independent. Finally, he discusses the significant role of patience when dispelling the most dangerous masculine attitudes, often rooted in anger and discontent.
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Be An Awesome Dad Without Losing Your Life With Larry Hagner
I’ve supported men in their love and work lives for many years now, many men ask for the right words to say, to be more successful, attractive, and desirable. I found it’s not so simple as giving scripts or lines because every man is different. Giving words or scripts would be like giving a tall thin man a shorter, wider man’s pants or vice versa. The words have to make sense for you and your personality. There’s so much happening beneath the surface that people are responding to. If you’re interested in how to become a better lover and leader in your own unique way, go to ShanaJamesCoaching.com/quiz, or you can text ALIVE to 44144. It only takes a couple of minutes and you’ll start to get an idea of how you can be both more respected and desired. After you fill it out, we can schedule a time to review your quiz and talk about your specific challenges and desires. Enjoy this episode.
I’m excited to be here with Larry Hagner of The Good Dad Project. Welcome. Thank you for being here.
What’s going on? It’s been a long time.
It’s been quite a while. Larry is a father of four boys, which I have mad respect for. We’re going to talk about The Good Dad Project and parenting. You have the number one podcast for dads on iTunes. You’ve been doing this for quite a while. One of the things I love about you is that you are willing to go first and say what can be scary for a lot of men to say. You talk about the vulnerability, which I know is not your favorite word, but talk about the feelings, the fears and the things that come up with having to make decisions and intimacy. Thank you for being a man who’s willing to risk that and show what it takes.
Thanks for having me topics. The topics I do enjoy talking about never was comfortable with it in the beginning, but definitely, I am now.
The Good Dad Project, we’re going to talk about what it’s like to be a dad, some of the mistakes you see a man make. I was reading one of your book chapters around patients. I was relating to that as a parent of how impatient I can be with my child. I don’t know if you know Jed Diamond, but he is a psychologist, who’s worked a lot with menopause for men and this way that as men get older, that can be more irritability, anger, and frustration. I think that might tie into what we’re talking about as well.
It’s true. One of the things that you said in another conversation is that you have boldly, had conversations with your wife around your intimacy, what you want and need. A lot of that anger can come from not speaking up about what you want and need.
I’ve known my wife for many years. We’ve been married for seventeen years. We met in college. I did all the bone-head mistakes you could possibly think of and then some, and still continue to do some as we move through our marriage as well. I would say for the first half of our relationship and I’m very transparent about this. I was not a good husband. I was not a good communicator. I was an impatient father. As part of the reason why I’m doing the work and what we’re doing, I had a lot of fear that I think a lot of men have as far as like, “I don’t want to ask for something because then it could be rejected.” I don’t want to tell her what I need or want, because what if she thinks is weird or what if she would tell me no to that.
What I noticed was is there was a lot of guilt, shame, even like this reflection of selfishness in a way like, “If I ask for something, am I being selfish?” It’s not that way now though. It hasn’t been that way for years, but the one thing that was a game changer for my wife, and me was communication. We bounced that word a lot around like, “I want better communication,” but we don’t know what that looks like.
I am curious what it’s looked like for you.
I did the typical thing where if my wife came to me with something, it could have been anything I wanted to fix it. Which I know women love that. I used to approach every conversation we had with expectations and agenda. It’s like if you were to have a conversation with a man. If I’m going to come to talk to you, it’s because I expect something to come out of the conversation and I have an agenda. That’s the task-oriented thing.
Have you ever seen that chart of how a man’s mind works and how a woman’s mind works?Your honesty and ownership must be celebrated, not punished. Click To Tweet
No, but you got me assassinated now. What is it?
It’s like swirls, rollercoasters and all these floral designs as women’s and then a man is like a straight arrow. “Here’s the agenda.” Women like, “Let’s go over here. We’re getting there.” I imagine that’s frustrating.
That’s a dynamic that if we expect that. In relation to that, what I have done now for a while it comes to every conversation with curiosity and appreciation. It’s like, “How do you do that?” About a year and a half ago, I got certified in appreciative inquiry exchange. Are you familiar?
No, but appreciation is one of my favorite things in the world and an inquiry as well that’s exciting.
It’s a way to facilitate conversations within teams or individuals. It’s a way to create psychological safety in an environment where someone feels very comfortable talking about anything that they want. It’s also a coaching tactic and technique for the person who’s receiving it to appreciate the fact that like, “This might not be the greatest news I want to hear, but I appreciate you having the courage to tell me because now I know where we’re at.”
I want to double-click on that. If we are in the middle of a conversation were focusing on all the negatives or, “Why this isn’t going perfectly,” it feels different to the other person. Thank you for bringing this to me. I know this is hard for you.
Going back to that appreciative inquiry training, there was one quote that I learned from that and that is, “However someone is operating, it makes total sense to them.” It may not make sense to us, but it makes total sense to them. Get inside their world and truly understand and remove myself from being attached to this thing that this person is doing. I’ll give you two separate stories. My wife was to come to me and be like, “I was so stressed out. Christmas stuff isn’t taken down. These kids are driving me crazy. Every time I turn around, there’s a mess. This kid won’t get off the screen.” Before I’d be like, “Why are you getting so upset about it? We don’t have to get it done right away. Why don’t you tell the little kid to get off the screen, take their phone away? We have all the time in the world. Why are you so upset?” I don’t do that anymore.
Now what I do is, I’m fascinated by a technique that Chris Voss teaches, which is tactical empathy, it sounds like, feels like, looks like. If my wife feels that’s upsetting and I can imagine like, “I get it.”
You empathize with her.
When you came on my show, you pointed out, the how might we question. I use that a lot instead of why can’t we? How might we? How might we work together and how can I best support you right now? It feels right.
Even that, how might we work together and how can I support you right now? Those are music to my ears.
It’s much different. There’s a part of me as a guy and I have to shut it off. If I say, “How can I best support you right now?” It feels right there’s that part of me, that you’re not giving her anything of value for not solving the problems. What is that? At the time, that’s receive so much better than, “You should do this. I don’t understand why you’re so upset,” and all these other things.
It’s so negating in a way it’s like, “Yes, I can understand the positive intention of, ‘I want to help you.’ but we’re not connected yet. We’re not on the same team yet.”
Even allowing someone that psychological safety, this goes with kids, it goes with your marriage. Even people that you work with if you can be that calm, it sounds that’s overwhelming. Tell me more. Don’t use the word why either, because why has this subconscious ability to put somebody in a corner. “Tell me more about that.” You’re inviting that person in to release whatever it is that they’re holding onto. You’re doing it in a way where you’re not condescending to whatever it their feelings are. You’re actually emotional validation.
That feelings are okay. I’m talking about this, this works so beautifully with children as well. If we bypass the fact that they’re having feelings to fix whatever it is, they don’t get to understand how to navigate being an emotional being in the world.
Taking that step further really quick a segue with psychological safety and kids. We live by a quote in this house and you have to with four boys, and that is, “Your honesty, and your ownership is celebrated and not punished.” How that unfolds is that if the kids have done something wrong, the fact that you told me what it was, that’s celebrated and I won’t punish you for that. You’re not grounded. I’m not taking away your phone. You can still play your PlayStation. Since we’ve done that over and over, we turn honesty and ownership into learning moments.
My son, I’ll be like, “How was your day?” “Not so good. I had finals. I got a D on that final.” “Thanks for telling me, what do you think the missile is? If you were to do that over again, what would you do?” “I should’ve studied more.” “Great. Maybe it’s not a D after all, maybe we learn something. What are you going to do next time?” That’s how we celebrate it versus they tell me they got an A. we get an email from the teacher. They actually got a D and you’re like, “Dude, come on.” I love the fact that the kids feel so comfortable, especially my fourteen-year-old. That kid, he’ll be fifteen. He tells me things so openly. I’m talking personal things. I was like, “I would’ve never said that to my parents.”
You build that trust.
Back to your question, creating psychological safety, appreciation, curiosity, emotional validation, not asking the question why and tactical empathy those are very powerful things to learn communication.
Those are great concrete. I’m also thinking about how you brought in learning moments with your kids and what might it look like for couples to have learning moments as well? Like, “Let’s look at what happened here. This didn’t go exactly the way we wanted. Instead of being on opposite teams and attacking each other for it, what if we looked at it together to see, what did we learn? How can we make this better?”
Looking at it through the lens of curiosity.
Curiosity is one of my favorite things. It’s funny when couples come or when I work with someone who’s like, “I know my wife, or I know my partner,” or something. I’m like, “Really? God, I hope you don’t because we’re constantly growing and changing.” There are so many things that you probably will never know about your partner.
We released a brand-new resource called 21 Days to an Extraordinary Marriage. In one of the emails, it lists 25 questions that most likely you haven’t ever asked your wife, or you haven’t asked her since you’ve been dating.
I have a set of 36 questions. That New York Times’ 36 Questions to Fall In Love. I was like, “I want to make 36 more questions, the advanced version.” Now we have to compare our questions. That would be amazing.
I would love to see yours because my wife has already heard all the ones so I would love more.
We’ll do that. Being a dad of four and being a conscious communicator at this point and knowing men as you do, what are some of the things that dad’s experience or pitfalls that happen that you could make it easier for them to either get out of or not fall into in the first place?We're all human. We all struggle with the same things. Click To Tweet
There’s a couple of things. Number one is patients. I released a course on that months ago. I took 650 podcast episodes and a couple of thousand hours and masterminding and condensed them into 37 minutes into a course. The answer to your question is to patients and silently, or even out loud sabotaging yourself and I’m happy to take each one and whatever.
Which one do you feel more excited about first?
We can talk about self-sabotage that one will be shorter. What I’ve found with most men is our internal dialogue. There’s a bully between our ears a lot of times, and we don’t say it out loud. Every question that we answer is three answers, fine, good, busy. “How’s life?” “Good.” “How’s work?” “We’re busy.” “How’s your wife?” “They’re fine. We’re fine.” Self-sabotage, I had Mark Divine who came on the podcast early on. He’s a former Navy SEAL commander. He’s the host of the Unbeatable Mind Podcast. He said one quote when he came on the show and that is, “The quality of our life is determined by the quality of our questions.” It’s so true. Whenever anything bad happens to us or sometimes even good happens to us. We’re like, “Why can’t I be a better communicator? Why can’t I be a more patient father? Shouldn’t I be able to know how to do this better?” I did two things there. I asked the why can’t I question? I took a big heaping shirt on myself. Men love to do that, should on myself. I should do this. I should do that. I shouldn’t do that or why can’t I have fill on the blank whatever that is. If you find yourself doing that quietly or even out loud instead I love the how might I, or how might we question because our brains are like Google, whatever question you put in that search bar, like, “why can’t I be a more patient father?”
We start finding evidence. We start finding answers and possibilities.
If you put it into Google, we did it one time. Why can’t it be a more patient father? The answer came up like, “This is why you can’t be more patient because of all these things.”
It’s like walking into a wall. You’re like, “Great. Here are all the reasons,” but it doesn’t move you forward in any way.
We did the same thing, how might I be a more patient father? All these resources that is how you could. Our brains are no different. If you say, “I had a bad moment, my kids, how might I recover make this and pivot and do something better or salvage the situation?” That could show up using that one question. Whenever you hear yourself saying, “Why can’t I, how might I,” it is so simple, powerful, but our default is to go that, “Why can’t I.” That’s the sabotage part.
I appreciate that. I do have that sense that a lot of people don’t know that we’re living inside of questions. We are creating our reality or what we see based on the questions that we’re asking. I often say to men, we asked that question like a statement. It was like you put a period on the end of it instead of a big question mark. You didn’t seem curious about that. “Why is my wife treating me like this?” It would be interesting to know some of those answers for that one, but the question, “Why isn’t this going well?” You can come up with some of those answers, but then it’s not generative or creative of, how could I shift this? There’s less empowerment there.
I love that you used that word generative because when we were going through that appreciative inquiry training. Generative questions, that’s exactly what that is because it generates more solutions and more help. How could we advance? How could we be better? Patients, I am standing nose-to-nose, toes-to-toes with men. Like our friend Trip. I’ve been all over the board as far as coaching. Everything from the common guy who goes to his job from 9:00 to 5:00. I’ve coached some professional athletes and two Navy SEALs. I never thought in a million years I’d be coaching those people. At the same time, we’re all human. We all struggle with the same things. I haven’t met a man in my life that it was like, “I’m like Yoda. I’m so patient.”
All the Star Wars, geeks out there who are reading, which I’m one of them by the way. Patients, people always think my patients are defined at the moment where I’m being challenged. That’s not the case at all. You can build emotional capacity and space and patience. The moment that you hit your feet on the floor in the morning. This is all in the course of what I created.
For instance, what do you think most people do in the morning when they wake up in the first five minutes?
Check their phone.
It’s their alarm clock. “Let me get on Insta quick. I haven’t gotten the shower, my coffee, but let’s see what’s going on.” What happens there? Think about that. If you’re checking social media, you’re probably going through the highlight reel of somebody else’s life and checking how many people liked or didn’t like your thing or whatever else. It doesn’t matter. The text messages, whoever texted you while you were asleep or the night before or whatever else, suddenly you are now on somebody else’s agenda. You open up your email, you get an email from your boss, “I didn’t get that report. Your expense reports late, you got to go.” You’re like, “Holy crap. I haven’t been up for five minutes and fight or flight.” No one’s dying or you’re not being chased by an animal, but those hormones are firing. That’s rule number one, make sure you have a solid morning routine. No device. I don’t have any devices for 90 minutes. It’s a game changer.
It sounds like to highlight, you were saying, you could be on your own agenda. You can be creating what you want as opposed to being dragged along by someone else’s.
In my routine in the morning, I wake up at 4:30. I’m in the gym by 5:00. I’m at home by 6:45. I take my boys to school. When I’m in the gym, I try to come up with a question, like a question of the day that we can talk about on the way to school. I don’t even get into the mix of work until 7:30, 8:00. I’m up for 3.5 hours.
Three and a half hours before you start working. That’s incredible that is inspiring too, that you get up at 4:30 to create that time for yourself.
I’m second to range that way. You don’t even have to do that even if you carved out the first 30 to 45 minutes. Where you didn’t check your phone and you maybe got into a gratitude practice or if you’re a spiritual person, maybe a Bible study or something like that to where you’re pouring something into you and you’re not on somebody else’s thing. That’s number one with patients. Number two, because we’re human skillsets as far as calming ourselves down. A lot of us think poorly of ourselves, even if we don’t get externally angry, but we’re internally angry, we’re pissed. Like our kids are doing X and I’m like, “I can’t believe how much rage I feel right now. I must be tired.”
I like normalizing that as a parent that we do feel rage even though we love our kids dearly.
If you think about it, this is one thing that gives me a sense of humor with our kids. A lot of times, I’ll look at what they’re doing, and I’ll be like, “I’m talking to a college drunk right now.”
Even though they’re like twelve years old or something.
I had to say to my twelve-year-old, not too long ago like, “Please don’t take your cheese and crackers in the bathroom when you’re taking a dump.” I had to say that out loud.
The things we never thought we would say. I have so many of those moments I never thought I would ask you to stop farting. I can’t even remember one right now. All those things, I never thought I would say that out loud.
By the way, you say the word fart and brought the eight-year-old out of me. Even knowing our triggers. For instance, all four kids are going berserk and I’m like, “I’m going to scream right now.” What I’ll do is I’ll do certain tactics like diaphragm breathing sounds very simple, but that’s what activates your rest and digest, shallow chest breathing that will do nothing but agitate you. There are other things you can do too. I’ll wiggle my right thumb while trying to wiggle the right pinkie of my left thumb while trying to wiggle my right pinky toe. Another tactic I like to use is counting backward from 50 to0 in increments of three. If you do it from 10 to 0, you can do that in an automatic pilot. You’ve been able to do it like seven.
It sounds like it’s important to counteract that automatic pilot.
I don’t want to give away obviously everything in the course, but there’s another element it’s called the After-Action Review because there are six things that we can do throughout the day at six modules long. There’s one thing that’s very human about us and the course and everything else. That is, you’re going to screw up. Sometimes you’ll probably screw up once a day, but it’s important to identify where did I miss and how might I do that differently the next time it presents itself? Now that I know like, “I was triggered. I didn’t create space by doing something wacky with my thumb and pinky toe or I didn’t count backward. I reacted.” How might in the future create that space and that awareness that I need to do something before I say something or yell something?
It’s so powerful. I was thinking about that with something you said before to humanize. We’re going to make mistakes. There’s no way. There’s no perfect person. There’s no perfect parent. There’s no perfect husband. To be constantly growing and learning, I have called it the debrief.By setting a regular morning routine, you can avoid becoming possessed by other people's agenda. Click To Tweet
Debrief to win or after-action review.
After-action review, I love that. It’s like, “What went here? What would I change?” You get insert questions like, “How could I feel closer to my kids?” I was thinking about that when you were talking about all those moments or the ways to have patients or to pause, and then we get to get clearer on what’s the outcome I want here. Sometimes I also think about it. Like, “How do I look to the future and help my kid not be an asshole?” I might have to suffer certain things at this moment to help my kid not be an asshole twenty years from now.
How can you raise them to be good, compassionate human beings? Does that answer your question the part patients and self-sabotage?
Yes. Those are two pitfalls that men can fall into parenting. You spoke to such a powerful one too. There are going to be such intense feelings kids bring up. I thought before you were going to say something like, “I realized I was looking at myself.” When you said, “I’m looking at a college drunk,” in a way, I thought you were going to say, “I used to do those things.” As parents, we are either given kids who help us grow and learn, or we are given kids who have done the things that we used to do in the past. We were reliving our childhood while also trying to figure out how to be adults, to these children and guides and mentors. It’s a complicated thing.
It’s one of the hardest things out there. Take your education. You have a Master’s degree in Psychology. If you’ve ever thought of it this way. I had one of my guests come on and talk about this. Let’s take your Master’s degree in Psychology that took you six full years, undergrad, and then graduate. In order to be a police officer, 990 hours of training. To be a surgeon, it’s eight years of medical school. Two years of fellowship and residency. Marriage, parenting, none. Two most important relationships and jobs you’ll have. Putting it back to that, can you imagine going to an OB-GYN, you’re pregnant and you’re like, “I’m due next month” and be like, “I didn’t go to medical school, but I know there have been lots of babies born. I’ve seen a couple, but don’t worry. You’re in good hands. We’ll figure it out as we go. We’re good.” We would never think about doing that in that aspect of our life yet, in parenting and marriage, most of us are like, “It’s what I do. I understand. If I don’t like it, I’ll figure it out.”
I never like to assume all men do anything or all women do anything, but there is a tendency I’ve seen with men to feel bad if they don’t know how, if they don’t know what would be in their mind, the right way, the best way, the most effective. I could imagine that would keep many men from learning about intimacy or relationship, about parenting and I love that you’re bringing these courses for men who are dads to learn some of these things to make it easier finally.
We have a mastermind community as well. We have 500 plus guys that do life with us. One thing I’ve noticed about men in particular, sometimes they like to educate in secret. That the courses are for, because like, “I don’t want to tell anybody, but I have an issue with this. I’m going to buy this and do this on my own.” We got guys like that too.
Thank you so much for being a mentor for men and dads and for that validation of, you’re not supposed to know how to do this. You haven’t studied this. Life throws this at you. How can you again be empowered or generative creative? I love those pieces.
I’ll thank you. This was a pleasure. It’s fun.
What if we were to end this, is there something that you feel like you haven’t said yet, or a topic we haven’t covered that feels important?
I’ll close with this, like I said, I launched this it’s a free resource. Don’t ask anything of anybody, but it’s 21 Days to an Extraordinary Marriage. I’m sure you probably know these statistics, but the divorce rate is 50%.
For first marriages and even higher for 2nd and 3rd marriage.
Here’s the scary thing. This is what a lot of people don’t know, the 50% that stay together. One-third of those marriages can say that their relationship is working. The next 1/3 they’re like, “Not everything I wanted, but I don’t want to break up, but sorry, I had to go.” The final 1/3, they’re completely emotionally, physically disconnected, and they’re living under the same roof. They’re roommates. That’s unfortunate. If you look at all of the marriages only about 15%, that’s a generous number that is doing pretty darn well.
The final thing that I’ll say is marriage, communication, and parenting is a skill. For instance, if I want to go be a psychologist, I need to go get a Bachelor’s and Master’s. I don’t understand, if I want to create an extraordinary marriage, I need self-care, partnership, friendship, lovers, and I need to know how to communicate. Under communication, there’s tactical empathy, there are mirrors, there are labels, there’s emotional validation, there’s support, venting space, all these things that we don’t know about. That’s okay if you don’t know about it, but at the same time, if we’re open to learning skills, being open and be like, “I’m going to learn one new thing.” That changes the game for us. Knowing like, “I don’t have to have this all figured out, but I can go learn it.” That’s what I’ll end on.
I like that. Especially that part about one new thing, I often find that with my clients where I’m like, “Go back and try this one thing in your relationship or with your parenting.” Lo and behold, they come back and they’re like, “Holy crap, we had a conversation we’ve never had, or it went better in this way. Suddenly, I could see her in a whole new light,” or whatever it may be so beautiful. Thank you so much for being here and where can men find more of you?
You can find everything we’re doing at GoodDadProject.com, which will change here soon. We’re going to change everything over to The Dad Edge, but don’t worry. You’ll be able to find a GoodDadProject.com that will redirect everything. The podcast is called The Dad Edge Podcast. You can find it anywhere podcasts are downloaded. We’re on Pandora now, so you can find us anywhere. If you want 21 Days to an Extraordinary Marriage, like I said, it’s an email resource. It gives you three challenges. It also helps you develop some skill sets around communication. You’ll find that on our homepage.
Thank you so much.
I’m so glad you joined us for this episode. I hope you enjoyed our conversation, and it gave you something to consider and explore in your life. If you like what you learn, I’d be so grateful for you to subscribe and write a quick review that helps men like you find us. Head over to ShanaJamesCoaching.com/quiz, or text the word ALIVE to 44144. To get a sense of how you can become a better lover and leader. You’ll start to see how you can be both more respected and desired in your unique and genuine way. If you don’t feel as confident or as excited about life or love as you’d like to be these quizzes, a great starting point, and we’ll guide you toward a more passionate love life and a more inspiring and successful career.
- For Women: Modern dating doesn’t have to be a nightmare for women
- The Good Dad Project
- 21 Days to an Extraordinary Marriage
- 36 Questions to Fall In Love – Article on The New York Times
- Mark Divine – Episode on Dad Edge Podcast
- Unbeatable Mind Podcast
- The Dad Edge Podcast
- Curious what you’d need to become a better leader and lover? Take the quiz
About Larry Hagner
Larry Hagner is the founder of the Good Dad Project and host of The Dad Edge Podcast.
The Dad Edge Podcast is the #1 dad podcast on iTunes. It is downloaded in 177 countries with millions of downloads.
Larry is the father of 4 boys and has been married for 14 years to his incredible wife, Jessica.
Larry breaks down strategies for men to be the best version of themselves and helps men navigate life through helping men build a band of brothers. He also helps men with mental toughness, emotional resilience, financial stress, relationships, and work/life integration.
His book The Dad’s Edge is a #1 Amazon Bestseller. He is also the host of the Dad Edge Alliance Mastermind Community with hundreds of members.