Parenting workshop brings local dads to Clinton Township

By: Nico Rubello | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published March 7, 2012

 Facilitator David Brown leads, from left, Naum Traykovich of Warren, Ken 
Stemmerich of St. Clair Shores and Ejiro Uwedjojevwe of Roseville through a road mapping activity about their lives.

Facilitator David Brown leads, from left, Naum Traykovich of Warren, Ken Stemmerich of St. Clair Shores and Ejiro Uwedjojevwe of Roseville through a road mapping activity about their lives.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Whatever their stories or reason for coming, the men who attend a once-a-week parenting workshop have at least one thing in common.

They’re all trying to grow as fathers.

By the time the workshop, aimed at helping men build healthy relationships with their children, begins at 7 p.m., the Macomb Intermediate School District building is all but empty for the night. But in a back room of the building’s second-floor library, the men convene around a table for two hours every Thursday for 14 weeks.

“It makes you take a look at yourself as a father, which is probably the best thing about the class,” said St. Clair Shores resident Ken Stemmerich, who began attending the class to find better ways to communicate with his 12-year-old stepson. “Inevitably, at the end of the lessons, you reflect on your own thoughts and your attitudes about what the lesson is about.”

The $20 course — hosted by the Macomb Great Start Parent Coalition and Trinity Lutheran Church, and titled “On My Shoulders” — comes with a course book with such chapter titles as “Signs I’m Stressed” and “Fathers Matter.”

Their situations vary. Some are married; others, single. Some have young children, and some have teenagers or young adults.

More than halfway through the current course, which began Jan. 12 and ends April 12, the five men in the group said they have been able to implement the course lessons in real time at home. Every week, they take turns going around the table, sharing stories and reflecting on their own parenting styles, responding to prompts from course facilitator David Brown.

For Stemmerich, 56, the class has given him tips to improve his communication style with his stepson, he said.

“He’s getting up to be a teenager now, and I have to have a different approach with him, which is more of a calm manner than my own ways,” he added. “I sit down and talk with him, rather than just spout off at him.”

But the lessons are age-transferrable. Stemmerich, for instance, said he is also applying some of the workshop’s lessons to his 3-year-old son.

Brown said the class is a structured approach to helping dads regain a sense of purpose in their family while affirming and encouraging the powerful role they have. Research, he added, suggests kids who have engaged fathers develop better social skills, do better in school and are less likely to do drugs or go to jail than children without fathers.

“If dads are that important for kids, whatever his capacity is, (a dad) has a huge impact on his children regardless of marital status,” Brown said.

Naum Traykovich, 39, of Warren, said he enrolled in the class to help him make it easier for his children as he and his wife divorce.

“I felt like I was the only person in the world who has gone through what I’m going through,” he said of before he enrolled in the class.

The course has helped him become more patient and taught him how to listen to his children better.

“Listening carefully and very attentively is a huge thing for me,” Traykovich added.

Another participant, Ufuoma “Ejiro” Uwedjojevwe said, “(The workshop) turned out to be pivotal for me because — besides the lecture material — hearing and seeing that I am not the only one out there that is struggling with parenting was helpful.”

Uwedjojevwe, a Roseville father of two — a 5-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl — enrolled in the class to better handle the stresses that come from being a stay-at-home dad, which he has been since last summer, as well as a pending divorce. He said he has picked up subtle tips, including crouching down to his children’s level to speak with them and smiling instead of frowning, which tends to make children less oppositional.

The class also makes fathers more aware of how their personality influences things around the house, and gives them practical strategies on how to have realistic expectations, such as using discipline in the home.

“I believe it is something that can help other people,” Uwedjojevwe said. “There are a lot more men that could benefit from a class like this.”

For more information about possible future sessions of “On My Shoulders,” call Brown at (586) 463-2921, ext. 108, or email him at dbrown@trinityct.org.

 

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