By John Badalament
- Create a vision for fatherhood
Just like a company has a mission, modern dads need a vision for fatherhood, a Dad's Vision Statement. Twenty years from now, what do you hope your child says - and doesn't say - about your relationship? By asking this question, you can be more deliberate in how you choose to spend your time, what priorities you set, and what needs changing in your life.
- Be the bridge between your own father and your children
Modern dads must sort through their family legacy, particularly the relationship with own dad, to determine the gifts they want to pass on to their own children, as well as the liabilities they must watch out for. To move toward realize your vision, you must understand the legacy you carry. How will you keep what's positive and stop unhealthy intergenerational cycles?
- Establish a ritual dad time
One great way to make sure you're spending quality time with your child regularly is to create a Ritual Dad Time. This in no way should replace daily family rituals like sharing meals, walking to school, reading at night, etc. Rather, this is a special, once per month, one-on-one time with dad. Think of it as the father-child equivalent of a couple's "date-night."
- Know your children
Dads today should strive to be experts about their kids -- everything from their daily schedule, to the best way to get them to sleep, to what trends are popular with their age group. This sends kids a clear message that they are important and in the process deepens your bond. Beyond focus and attention, knowing requires being a skilled listener and resisting the urge to fix, lecture, or give unsolicited advice.
- Be known by your children
Tell stories about yourself when you were your child's age. Think of the pressures you faced, what you did for fun, challenges you overcame, who you had a crush on, etc. Letting your children know more about what you think and feel on a regular basis is essential to building a healthy connection.
- Take care of yourself
Live the life you want your children to lead. Go for regular checkups, and listen to your doctors. One reason men die five years earlier than women is because we don't go to the doctor as often as we should. A study out of the Johns Hopkins Children's Center recently found that a majority of boys 15-19 years old believed that going to the doctor was a sign of weakness. Dads need to model differently.
- Don't go it alone
It's critical that you make time to talk with other parents. One of the most important and available resources to dads is…other dads! Get together, informally, with a couple of other dads on a monthly basis and talk about fathering. What's been going well? What parenting challenges are you currently facing? Keep it simple. Or, seek out a parenting group in the community or start a dad's group at your child's school.
The chances of a dad succeeding at being intimately involved in his kids' lives are much better if his wife, partner, or co-parent is behind the mission. For a dad to know his child, the mother has to allow dad in.
To that end, here are some ways to do that:
- Try letting go
Does he dress the baby in mismatched clothes? Forget to plug in the humidifier in her room at bedtime? Leave the jackets at home? Let it go. Either he learns on his own that your system works better, or he invents a system of his own. By harping on him to do it "right" (meaning your way), you're undermining his confidence in being an equal parent.
- See him as your equal
Even if scheduling demands mean that he doesn't have as much time with the kids as you do, try to give him the information he needs to be up to speed. If you're doing more than you think you should (see next bullet), don't let resentment get in the way of him attending a parent-teacher conference your certain he doesn't have on his calendar.
- Speak up for what you want
If dad isn't living up to certain realistic expectations, put it on the table in a healthy way. Instead of complaining, or just angrily doing something yourself, you can say, 'It's really important to me that you spend time with our children or share in the discipline.' Said more simply; don't nag, Ask!
- Understand the legacy of your own father
Your expectations for how your husband, partner or co-parent fathers are influenced to some degree by the father you grew up with (or without). Simple as it may sound, try to stay aware of the fact that he is not your father, for better and for worse. This requires some understanding on your part about what you got and didn't get from your own father.
For more information on John Baladent, visit www.moderndads.net