Spring. That time of year many of our thoughts turn to the idea of renewal. It is warm outside, greener, and more inviting. There is also a chance our fathering skills may need some renewal, too.
As our kids grow older, we need to take stock of our goals for us, for them, and spruce up our parenting skill set with a little spring cleaning. Here are four to start with:
Do the right thing by example
We have many examples in the news of people doing what they are allowed to for short-term gains at the cost of what is right long-term, be that economical, environmental or for the common good. Are we teaching our kids to do what is right? Do they know that just because they can do something that it doesn’t mean they should do it? Are they receiving an education in empathy from us?
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 (so you won’t need to carry a big stick)
Discipline is one of those fathering skills that must be mastered, but not to the point that our kids fear us. My grandfather 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 into 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.
Give them freedom to make decisions
Kids can’t make good decisions if they are not allowed to make any. 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 and make them who they are. The older they get, the more my role becomes cheerleader, comforter, and confidant.
Stay open to their needs and adapt
Parenting isn’t static. What worked last year may be outdated this year. The needs of a 3-year-old needs are different than those of 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 fathering skills is an ongoing process for us. 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 line stays 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 fathering skills tip? Leave it in the comments below!