There is little to contend with the statement that our role as fathers has changed. A generation ago we sat outside the delivery room awaiting news of our child’s birth. Today we are involved from the start. As children grow we are involved in getting them to and from school, and often caring for our kids during our “shift” at home. I often wonder whether we had the right role models for our job today? Where did we learn to be fathers? Perhaps we had good teachers but more than likely our fathers parented differently than we do today. It may be interesting to reflect on your role models in parenting, your personal nature as a man and how these relate to your parenting.
First think about your parents and what you learned about parenting. Many fathers in the past parented in an authoritative – because I said so – manner. We often feared our father. Perhaps a threat of physical punishment was always there. That manner of parenting is out for many reasons involving abuse and fear. Today, a more sensitive, and understanding manner of parenting is in. It involves more listening and measured responses.
This manner of parenting may not fit with the stereotypical male. Men often think of themselves as “fixers”, problem solvers, who are so in control we don’t need directions. We can figure out the solutions! We like to be spontaneous and love to play. We may not be the most organized but who needs organization – that is like asking for directions in normal life.
This nature of man (and I realize that it is not all men) may run counter to the needs in fathering today. Because organization isn’t natural to us and spontaneity is important we may be put into more of a reactive mode when caring for our kids. We may not understand everything our kids will throw at us. As a result, when our kids act out, instead of being measured in our response we may fall back into an authoritative, controlling mode that we were taught when we grew up. Does this summarize your nature and parenting style? Is it working? What is your nature and style? Have you thought about how it works in your family? With your kids?
As fathers today we need to think about how our responses affect home situations. Do our reactions contribute to solutions or make situations worse? Today, in a non authoritative world of parenting, it is our responses to situations that affects how our children respond. It takes a while but over time in fatherhood you too, may recognize that strong reactions often make situations worse. As you escalate your tone, our children escalate theirs. Or if you are too strong, they act subdued and learn to work around you to avoid your responses. If you are functioning this way, you are parenting by using fear. This leads to dysfunctional relationships. How can a father change and make things better?
First, you may be mister fix it at home but don’t try to fix your child’s behavior or their emotion.
When your kids bring up their issues at school or home don’t solve their problems. Respect them enough to coach them about how to solve their own problems as much as possible.
Work with your spouse to set appropriate limits. This takes discussion, listening, understanding and planning. You do not own the solutions to all problems. A better understanding can lead to more appropriate solutions.
Praise your kids whenever you can. Praise from a father is a powerful influence on children. Use this tool and you will gain respect in your children’s eyes.
Correct your children when you need to but don’t berate them. Don’t be overly critical. Children are fragile and don’t need to be humiliated. Make your correction and leave it be. You don’t need to make your kids understand all the points you would like to make. They will understand your reasoning over time.
Learn to be a listener. It is not our nature. But we learn to be better fathers if we listen, involve others and not jump to quick fixes.
Recognize that you will make mistakes. It is O.K. to admit them and even apologize for them. Your kids and spouse will respect you more if you are mature enough to do this.
This is a tall order. But by taking these lessons to heart, a man will be in a better position to be a good father in today’s parenting environment.