Raising children can be life’s greatest adventure! But, it’s important not to coast through it or be content just to survive (I’ll admit surviving often feels like an accomplishment). I was inspired by this article from All Pro Dad to write myself a stern reminder of a father’s responsibilities. The article suggests, “Maintaining daily focus on doing the right things makes raising daughters [and sons] healthy and strong all the more likely.” If we lose that daily focus, it’s easy for life to pass by without us realizing it. Instead, I’d like to be a better dad.
Take what you will from this post, but it’s not meant to be instructional, nor a showcase of my parenting knowledge (quite the contrary). It’s a journal entry of sorts; ways in which I often fail. It’s a set of guidelines for myself, that I can turn back to and reference when I feel myself losing focus.
SETTING AN EXAMPLE, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT
I’m leading off with a doozy here. This one theme is important, multi-faceted and it permeates throughout several other concepts on how I need to be a better dad and a better person. It’s a theme that I struggle with on a regular basis. Improve yourself so you can set a better example. If there’s one thing that scares me the most as a father, it’s how much children mimic their parents. I’ve always known this to be true, but didn’t realize to what extent until my toddler started copying me like a parrot.
Live your life the way you want your children to live theirs. Don’t get me wrong, our kids listen to what we say, and our words are powerful. But, our actions speak even louder than our words – as the old adage states. This can really shine through in the way we treat other people. Are you polite and respectful to those less fortunate than you or people that have nothing to offer you? Our kids will probably act accordingly.
A huge part of our “example” is how we treat our wives and our marriage. This will affect how our sons treats women and how our daughters expect to be treated by men. Treat their mother with respect, honor, and affection. Then, chances are, our kids will grow up mimicking that treatment. Also, if we openly and vocally respect our wives – her love, hard work and sacrifices – they will be more likely to respect her as well. Conversely, if we only invest in our marriages when it’s beneficial or convenient, that poor behavior might rub off on our children.
We will inevitably fail and set some bad examples occasionally. There will be times when we don’t have the energy, patience or wisdom to be great fathers. Don’t get discouraged! Let’s be better dads by admitting our faults. (Patience is my biggest area for improvement.) What better example can we set than one of continual and persistent self-improvement?!
Being “present” comes with two requirements: quality time and quantity time. Neither of these come easily for moms and dads, but they are worth the effort.
“Quantity time” is self-explanatory but still difficult. Be there as much as possible. A lot of jobs require long hours, but if it gets excessive maybe a job change is worth exploring. Enjoy each stage of their lives because it will be fleeting. We’ll never look back on your life and wish we had worked more and spent less time with your family. The thing I struggle with most is getting my butt out the door in the morning and then getting home as early as possible – then I could help more with dinner time. Finally, whenever possible, don’t miss big events like birthday parties, recitals, concerts, or ball games. Especially if you promise to be there, be a better dad and follow through on it.
“Quality time” is more of a modern struggle. With technology invading every facet of our lives, sometimes it’s really hard to unplug and be a better dad. Put the phone down, or better yet turn it off completely and eliminate the temptation. If you’re like me, you can’t resist pulling your phone out of your pocket. Sure, bath time can seem monotonous, but try to enjoy the presence of your kids even during mundane tasks. Get interested and excited in the things that interest and excite them! I’m trying (and failing) to remember to leave my phone on the kitchen counter or the nightstand, so I can focus better. Furthermore, I know it’s going to be a challenge, but when my kids are older I really want to prioritize “tech-free” family time.
COMBAT THEIR INSECURITY
Fighting against insecurity is especially important with daughters, but sons too (and wives for that matter). I feel like our generation of parents has a incredible challenge of preparing our children’s self-esteem for the harsh environment of social media and inevitable internet bullying while simultaneously fighting our society’s rampant entitlement and narcissism. I think the key is to mix gratitude in with the the self-worth.
Frequently tell your daughter how smart and beautiful she is. Someday a movie, a magazine or a mean-spirited classmate will attempt to convince her otherwise. I try to boost my daughter and my wife simultaneously by saying my daughter is “pretty and smart like mommy” (and I mean it). Of course, each gender presents unique challenges and I still have a lot to learn about my children’s self-esteem.
I also want to make it a priority to talk about the deeper psychology of people that tear others down in order to artificially lift themselves up. My hope is that this will help my kids be more resilient. To be aware of that behavior in others and (heaven forbid) in themselves. I think part of being a better dad is to impart wisdom and maturity to our kids, not just to give them commands and “because I said so” statements.
Finally, write your children hand-written letters and save them for some of life’s biggest milestones. If you give them advice and encouragement several years in advance, it might carry more weight. It will be free from future context and free from any future quarrels that might exist when the letter is delivered. It will be pure and will capture the hopeful innocence of the early stage of life when it was written.
THE GIFT OF EXPERIENCES
One of my favorite rules listed by All Pro Dad, is to “give her the gift of experiences”. With my daughter I find this to be particularly important because her birthday is a few short days after Christmas. My goal is to give her some fun toys on Christmas morning, then I want to give her memorable experiences for her birthday. For her 2nd birthday, our family went to the Georgia Aquarium and had a wonderful time. The Zoo is another great choice. Of course, we’ll soon run out of Atlanta-based activities and we will have to travel! Maybe it will be camping, the beach, or Disney. In addition to providing memories that will last a lifetime, this strategy will prevent us from getting lazy and giving our daughter combined “Christmas & birthday” gifts.
Another benefit of experiential gifts goes back to quality time and being present. Being present for birthdays isn’t something I struggle with at the moment. I’m fortunate enough to have a job that doesn’t force me to travel or work ridiculous overtime. But still, it is a point worth mentioning.
Thanks for reading! If you like Dad Kingdom, click through one of our Amazon links, and check back soon for “Part 2.”