Wise old dads have much experience and advice to impart upon new dads. It is challenging to raise a generation of children in which cell phones become a permanent appendage to one’s hand.
Men who have been in the dad-trenches offer inspiring and practical advice that is as timeless as fatherhood itself. Interestingly, the advice has little to do with technology and everything to do with connecting. For Father’s Day, these seasoned dads share wisdom they would impart upon their younger dad-selves.
Spend time with your children
Andy T., a Texas father of three boys ages 25, 21, and 16, reflects, “I’m not a big believer in quality time over quantity time. Quantity is important, too. It’s not just being at their concerts and ballgames. You need to make sure you make time to just hang out with them – time that doesn’t involve screens. Get down on the floor and play with them when they’re little. Play catch with them when they’re bigger. Make time to be with them – all together and individually. If you have more than one kid, try to find something that’s mostly just for that one kid and you, that the two of you can do by yourselves.” Studies have shown that when dads engage with and read to their young children, those children tend to do better academically.
Andy also believes that family vacation time is important. “Take family vacations together. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but traveling together – especially by car – is something you – and they – will always remember. The older they get, the harder it is to coordinate schedules. Try to make it happen anyway.”
This evokes many fond memories of long family road trips in my youth. My dad would crank tunes such as Take Me Home Country Road by John Denver while my brothers would wrestle with one another. I, of course, sat politely in the back seat. My dad would reach back with his large hand, swiping at the air as we bounced out of the way. “If you don’t stop it back there I’m turning back!” he roared. My dad has been gone a long time now, but we still laugh as we reminisce. Road trips – or any adventure – make memories that will live long after your role as a parent is over.
“Have dinner together as often as you can, even if it’s just sandwiches or frozen pizza,” says Andy. I would add, put your phones away, turn off the television, and keep the background music low. Focus on one another and allow time for each person to talk about their day. Some people like to ask open-ended questions such as “tell us about a kindness you witnessed today.”
“When you grow weary of transporting your kids from one activity to the next, remember that the days they are a captive audience are numbered; use every opportunity to communicate,” Peter S., a father of two in Illinois, states.
Kent V., an Ohio father of two boys, 15 and 17, shared this tip: “‘Cut it loose.’ They are going to cut their hair, break things, paint things. Enjoy each mistake, that’s how they learn.” I allowed my daughter and her friend to paint her bedroom walls. Paint speckled the carpet, but so what? It was a room she was proud of and loved.
Peter S., the dad of two adult children, believes that “the guidance, rules, and opportunities you give your children should all be pursued with the idea of allowing your children to live their lives, not yours.” He ought to know; his daughter decided to nix the traditional “college” routine after high school. She is now touring the world as a back-up dancer for a major pop sensation. Her parents supported her dream while guiding her to be a responsible adult.
“Let them find and explore their own interests. Be ok if it is not what you expected. Boy Scouts was a big part of my life growing up, and I had really looked forward to sharing that experience with them. My oldest two are much better musicians and athletes than I was, and simply had other interests; baseball, tennis, orchestra, guitar. My youngest loves hiking and camping but hated all the chaos of a boy-led scout troop. He quit after a year, but he and I still go camping and hiking together regularly,” shared Andy.
Give them a chance to learn and to fail.
“Sign them up for things and take them places when they are young. Don’t ask them whether they want to do something they know nothing about. Just do it. Take them to the art museum and then symphony. Sign the up for soccer or karate lessons. If they give it a chance and don’t like it, don’t make them keep doing it.” Andy is spot on. Allowing your kids to experience many cultural, athletic, and learning activities opens their minds to new ideas.
“Encourage them to help you do your yard work and chores. It doubles the time to get anything done, but those skills – and memories – last a lifetime,” Kent states.
Enjoy the journey.
Andy T. from Texas states, “Being a dad is the best. I’ve loved almost every moment of it. Enjoy it. It goes by in a hurry.” I love that word almost. Parenting is never all sunshine and rainbows.
Kent states, “Kids can be horrible, hateful creatures and say terrible things to you. Remember, they are just kids. Stay strong and hold your ground. Don’t give up. Those are the times they need to see you won’t give up on them…” I think he was having a bad day.
Bob C. from Illinois offers this deep and meaningful advice: “When your daughter slams the door, remove the door.” Okay, so that was actually in my house. And he is actually my husband.
Peter S. commented that well-meaning advice is “easy to pay lip service to but very difficult to put into practice.” He is correct.
As dads, you do your very best to be aware of your words, actions, and deeds when raising kids. But the truth is dads are human, too. Some days are better than others. When you find yourself struggling with the parenting gig, take a moment to step back and regroup. Work out, take a walk, share a beer with some friends, enjoy a date night with your significant other – whatever it is that helps push your “reset” button. Explain to your children you are finding a healthy way of dealing with the stressors at hand and you will revisit the issues with them at a later time. You are modeling healthy behavior as well as deflecting a potentially negative interaction.
(For more tidbits on Dad-hood, read my latest newsletter. Be on the lookout for more words of wisdom in tomorrow’s post.)
Happy Father’s Day!!