How To Not Suck As A Father
I’ve been a Dad now for 18 years! Yippee! Yeah, 42 year old men can, and do, say yippee. I have 2 beautiful and smart daughters that are full of good moral and quality character. I couldn’t be more proud. Fatherhood is an awesome journey for me. As the journey continues with my “girls” entering adulthood, I sometimes sit and think about how I’ve raised them and if I did a good enough job.
I know it’s not all about me, but a man can’t help but wonder if he’s made a difference. As I reflect I realize that I’ve learned as much on this journey as they have.
Before I get started, I want to make one thing very clear. I didn’t title this “How To Be an Awesome Father”, or “How to be Father of the Year” for a reason. I’m neither of those things. What I am is a man that learns from his mistakes, and freely shares them with anyone else that want’s to learn from my mistakes.
Smart men learn from their mistakes. Wise men learn from other’s mistakes
Without further adu…..and in no particular order, here are a few lessons I’ve learned.
Set The Example
You want your kids to be honest hard working citizens that contribute good to our society. Are you? Do your kids see and know that you lie (even a little white one) for any particular reason. Even the smallest, most insignificant, lie used to cover an action or prevent an undesired consequence is teaching them that it’s ok to lie sometimes. Here’s the immediate problem, they only know that you expect them to tell the truth while it’s ok for you to lie. I think we all know how that scenario’s going to play out.
This applies to ALL aspects of your life. Do you speed and break other traffic laws? They’re watching. Do you utter those 4 letter words from time to time? They’re learning.
True story: When my youngest daughter was 5, my wife and I were playing “pretty little princess” with her. It’s a board game. After she rolled the dice and landed on an undesired square, she said (without any thought or hesitation) “damn-it”! My wife and I could do nothing more than laugh at how nonchalantly she rolled that out and then teach her that she shouldn’t use those words. Lesson learned.
Listen To Your Kids
New and exciting things are happening to them everyday. They want to share their experiences with you. Listen to them with a child’s ear. Hear and share in their excitement at the new wonders they’ve found. It’s everyday life for us, but to them it’s the newest discovery and it’s super-cool Dad! Don’t let today’s mail battle for your attention. Stop what you’re doing, get down on their level, and show them you’re excited too.
True story: I had just gotten home from work and was reading the mail / bills. My 4 year old begins telling me about the day’s events. I was half way paying attention and replying with the usual “uh-huh” while not even looking at her. After a few sentences she say’s “Daddy? Are you even listening to me?” I said “Of course. I’m just trying to see what bills I’ve got to pay too”. To which she so eloquently stated “What’s more importanter, me or the mail?” Lesson learned
Spend Time Doing What They Want
We all know the importance of spending quality time together as a family. But is that “quality” time spent doing what YOU want to do? Or are you doing what THEY want to do? Of course there are things that are mutually agreeable, but often your kids don’t enjoy the same things as you. Who makes the sacrifice? You or them? It shouldn’t be news that if it’s not what your kids want to do, then it’s not quality time with dear old dad. It’s torture.
As a grown up, you can easily exchange your activity for theirs and reap the reward of time well spent and memories made with your young one. Trust me, when they’re older they’ll remember playing “pretty little princess” with their Dad.
True story: This one could take up an entire post to explain the size of regret and lesson learned. When my oldest was 9 she rode a motorcycle for the first time. I could see the sheer joy on her face right through the helmet. My wife and I decided that we would get her one for Christmas and it would be a great way for daddy and daughter to spend some quality time together. It started out great. She had a blast just cruising along at her own choice of speed and riding through every muddy spot we could find. As her skills get better I begin thinking that she would have more fun if she had more challenging things to do. Going to trails that were not so smooth and finding hills that require effort to reach the top. Nothing she couldn’t do without a little practice.
Slowly, and in total oblivion, I destroyed the fun of riding motorcycles with dad. All she wanted to do was just go out and ride. Nothing extreme or exciting. But I thought that was boring, she would have more fun doing the stuff I wanted to do. She no longer cared to go for rides anymore. I completely lost sight of the goal. The memories that could have been made were not to be, simply because I thought I knew what was fun for her. I was wrong. Painful lesson learned.
Say “Yes”, Unless You Have a Good Reason to Say “No”
Your kids ask if they can do / have something, and without hesitation your answer is a resounding “no”. No time needed to consider the request. Just “no”. Before you say no next time, stop and ask yourself if there’s a good reason for no. I think you’ll find more often than not, saying “yes” won’t hurt a thing. And you’ll bring joy and happiness to their lives.
True Story: (not about me this time – it just really highlights the point). We invited a family to go camping with us a few years back. They had never camped before and were ecstatic to bring their kids camping at the lake. Their 12 year old son was overjoyed. The day they arrived everyone was all smiles and care free. Their kids were full of energy and were running and playing as you’d expect.
All their son wanted to do was get in that water. After all, his friends were already in it. Like a moth drawn to a flame, so was he to the water as any 12 year old boy would be. However, he wasn’t allowed to get in because he was wearing jeans instead of his swim shorts. How frustrating to a 12 year old energetic boy!
My question is “why not”? So what if he’s wearing pants, they’ll dry. So what if the pants get dirty? They’re washable. Getting jeans wet is no big deal at all. Think about the fun he could’ve had playing in the lake with his friends.
Instead, he was yelled at and disciplined for doing what was inevitable. Yes, he got in the lake wearing his jeans anyway.
Maybe you agree, maybe you disagree with my thoughts on the jeans and water. But my lesson learned is don’t suck and constantly say no to your kids fun without a good reason.
Let’s Wrap This Up
I know I’ve just rattled off a rather long post and maybe you just skimmed over as a result, so let me summarize.
Being a father is a truly awesome responsibility. YOU are responsible for molding your child into an adult. Your influence is far greater than you, or I, can possibly imagine. Take that responsibility as a serious one. Do everything in your power to not suck it up and regret later.
Set awesome examples. Get down on your childs level, look them in the eyes and listen to every exciting word they want to share with you. And hope they always want to share with you everything in their life – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Do less of what you want, and spend time with them doing what they want. Cherish every moment. Say yes, unless you have a good reason for no. Decide that the next time you’re in the checkout lane and he asks for a candy bar, you’ll say yes. Think of how excited he’ll be. Then tell him he can eat it right away. Oh my!
Photo by B.Riordan.