Rebirth, Renew, Reset
This time of year many of our thoughts turn to the idea of renewal. It is warm outside, greener, and more inviting. There is a chance too that our parenting behaviors may need some renewal too. As our kids grow older we may need to take stock of our goals for us, for them, and spruce up our fathering skills with a little spring cleaning. Here are four to start with:
- Doing the right thing – We have many examples, especially lately, of people doing what they are allowed to for short term gains at the cost of what is right for long term success. Are we teaching our kids to do what is right. Are they receiving an education in empathy from us? Do they know that just because they can do something that it doesn’t mean they should do it? This is a difficult lesson to teach, especially at the end of a long day when we just need them to go to sleep. No one ever said fatherhood was easy though. Empathy is best modeled by behavior if your kids see your example they are more likely to copy it. Treat people (even your kids) the way you want to be treated and it will pay great emotional dividends.
- Speak softly (and you won’t need to carry a big stick) – Discipline is an important element of parenting, but do we want our kids to fear us? My Grandpa would always say “what happens when you reach a decibel you can’t yell above?” As fathers we need to correct our children’s behavior and mold them in to the good people we hope they become. As we do this we need to remember that we should be their “safe place”. When they make mistakes, when they feel weak, when they hurt we want them to turn to us and know that forgiveness and love will be found in us.
- Freedom to make decisions – Kids can’t make good decisions if they are not allowed to make any. Yes this means they are going to make bonehead decisions too, but that is how experience is built. There is always a part of me that tenses up when I let my kids go out the door, I have to fight that instinct to protect them from everything. My experiences have informed me and made me who I am. I must let them get out into the great big world and let them collect their own experiences, the ones that will inform them make them who they are. The older they get, the more my role becomes cheerleader, comforter, and confidant.
- Make room for what comes next – Parenting isn’t static what worked last year may be outdated this year. A 3 year-old’s needs are different than an 8 year-old, a 16 year-old, or a 25 year-old. Are we adapting to their needs now or trying to apply outdated models to their new problems? Auditing their needs and our skill set as a parent is an ongoing process. We must continually evolve as they do. The one thing that will remain constant (if we nurture it) is the line of communication between our kids and us. Making sure that our lines of communication are open is probably the most important thing we can do long term as a parent. That way we will have a better idea of, and be better prepared for, what comes next.
Do you have a fatherhood tip? Leave it in a comment below!