Any dude can father a child but it takes a real man to be a dad. Dads are all in, heart and mind, for the long haul, encouraging their kids to become self-reliant young adults. Dads also teach by example that everyone (including children) deserves respect. When we see people treated unfairly it’s not enough to feel uncomfortable. Dads help their sons and daughters develop the social courage it takes to make things better.
OK. Enough of the high-level stuff. Let’s talk in-the-trenches, day-to-day. How does Dad do his best for his kids, especially when they are teens? Check out these tips. Make them part of your daily routine and you’re on your way:
- Be a safe person to talk to. When your child wants to discuss tongue piercing, a solo cross-country trip, or dropping out of school to pursue hip-hop, stay calm. Take a deep breath. Take ten of them. Fyi, no one’s asking you to approve of every one of your kid’s crazy ideas. But kids need you to listen with respect. And if they ask for advice (don’t give it if they don’t ask), be a consultant and offer your wisest counsel. But do not freak out. Otherwise, they won’t seek your input; they’ll just go behind your back and do whatever they damn please. Which they may do anyway, but at least your voice will be in their head and yes, that can be a powerful antidote to stupidity.
- Catch them in the act of doing something right. Some fathers believe you teach responsibility by berating kids when they mess up. That’s actually backwards and Dad knows it. Unacceptable behavior is unacceptable. No quibble there. But your kid is more likely to do the right thing consistently when you notice. You don’t need to throw a pizza party or give out gold stickers. Just say something simple like: “It was nice of you to help your brother with his homework.” End of celebration. Simply praise the behavior you want to see more of. It works with kids. Spouses, too.
- Show your squishy side. There are plenty of fathers who act all mucho macho. But Dad isn’t afraid to express “softer” emotions in front of his kids. He’s also equally at ease when his girls and his boys are upset. When you show your family it’s more than OK to cry, to be afraid, to be compassionate, you teach your sons what it means to be a real (hu)man. And you raise the bar for the kind of partner your daughter will want.
Dads, your love, support and encouragement are essential to your children’s health and well being, so keep up the good work. And Happy Dad’s Day. Enjoy the attention. You deserve it.