Before we move to our ten tips below. Let me communicate: your life is about to get turned upside down. However, don’t be alarmed as these tips were forged in the trenches. I was thrown in at the deep end. No water wings. Dad of twin girls, with no option but to learn on the job (active learning).
Between feeds day/night, nappy changes, nursing when upset, walking to get them to sleep, (might also involve 3 am drives in the car) G.P visits, and a general state of high alertness equivalent to CIA operatives. Buckle up, it’s time to begin your journey into fatherhood.
1. The power of the crap (Nappy changes)
Let’s start with an action that a lot of men fear. There is an easy way to look at this. If you engage in the art of making children, you need to embrace the crap, literally when it comes to nappy changes. I’ve listened to many men tell me it makes me sick, or the partner has a much more solid constitution. Stop the bull-shit and get the hands dirty. Remember you will get old one day and might need the favor returned. No excuses, this is every father’s responsibility.
2. The power of imagination
During those early years, to at least aged 10, their imaginations run wild. It’s one of the best times of their lives, and you play a huge role in supporting this. The thoughts of Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and numerous birthdays and celebrations they go through requires acting, which Tom Hanks would be proud of.
Get into customs, set up imaginary sets in the house, and talk to them about all the things that will happen, when they are asleep. Generate excitement and hope, so they go to bed with positive thoughts to dream and wish. Think back to the dreams you had when a child. Did any of them become true? How about you start with being a father. There is no greater wish your child would want.
3. The power of the first bike
Be warned, this requires the patience of a saint. These are brilliant learning moments for life, so use them well. The traits of persistence, resilience, and determination will all be formed by learning to ride a bike. Why? They fall, so they need to get back up numerous times. Step back and let them master what they need to do.
We all start with supports on the back wheel to help them feel safe and balanced. Once they are more confident they are removed, and they learn the skills of balance and coordination. Make sure you have the smartphone at hand to capture this, as the look of happiness that comes to light across their face, would power Santa’s reindeer.
4. The power of stories and songs
These are opportunities for you to use your imagination, based on whatever theme your child wants, So, get ready for princesses, dragons, wizards, unicorns, castles, trolls, giants, fairies, and everything they can imagine. You need to get into the habit of reading, or telling stories at every opportunity. Why? It builds a bond between you and your children, which is crucial in the early years.
Don’t leave this to your partner every night, while you watch the sports or news channels. “I’m too tired” isn’t a valid excuse. You can thank me later!
5. The power of showing up
There will be times when issues of health, financial worries, relationships at work, with close friends, your partner/wife, or you’re just having a shit day will surface. However, don’t let these emotions show up during Dad’s time with children. Not that you need to hide your feelings and emotions internally, just in front of them. Why? They can sense if something is wrong as you won’t be engaged with them fully.
Believe me when I say this, you will find distractions that will keep your mind occupied on the negative when you need to focus on spending time with your children. You don’t need self-help books or guides to be a good dad. Just show up and be there. The rest will take care of itself.
6. The power of priorities
Now, this is very difficult when you have a family to support. To explain this better you need to decide which dad you want to be, and there are only 2 options:
- You work 16–18 hours days to provide the best life you can for your kids
- You work 8–10 hour days to provide for your kids. (Can be great/average)
Let’s explore option 1.
You provide a life, maybe you never had growing up, with holidays, a nice house, clothing, cars and money to cover all your children’s needs. You are the main breadwinner, and take great pride in providing all these opportunities for your family.
However, the sacrifice is time you can never get back. So, if you leave early in the morning before your kids get up, and return when they’re in bed, or just going to bed, is this quality time? This is your decision to make; choose wisely.
How about option 2?
You may be in a job with good financial rewards, which enables you to do everything stated in option 1. This is the optimal position. On the other hand, you may be in a job that combined with your partner’s salary enables you to cover all monthly outgoings, and have a bit leftover. You won’t get everything your children need, all of the time, but they’re happy with that. Why? You didn’t sacrifice time with them. Again, the choice is yours.
7. The power of incentives
These are brilliant when creating a win/win for both parties. Excuse the business-speak, but this is negotiation! The use of incentives or bribes can help you reach a desired behavior or outcome. These can range from:
- Eating vegetables;
- Brushing teeth;
- Sitting still in hairdressers;
- Not running amok in shopping aisles (we have all been there);
- Climbing large frames in the park, as you simultaneously take heart palpations;
- Going to bed on time;
- Watching less T.V. scrolling on tablets or smartphones, or playing PlayStation.
Be warned, these are powerful tools, which require mastery levels to be attained. (Think Harvey in Suits, Netflix)
8. The power of listening
It’s perfectly ok if you utilize the power of the force on this one (Luke Skywalker). You need to listen to what your child is telling you both verbal/non-verbal. This is earned from a position of trust. The last thing you want is your children not confiding in their dad, no matter how small the problems.
Do not use this bull shit statement; “they tell their mum everything”, you are already starting from a position of weakness. If they tell their mum everything, how are you going to help fix problems? Make this a core part of how you build a relationship with your children. No shortcuts or fabricated excuses tolerated.
9. The power of snowmen and sandcastles
Do you remember going to the beach when you were a child or playing in the snow? These were great memories from your childhood. Did your Dad build the best sandcastles and the tallest snowmen? If not, then you need to! You don’t need a lot of tools, a spade, a bucket, and seawater. The excitement when your children tell other kids. “Come look at what my Dad built”, is worth every minute of your time. Do you want to build a snowman? (You know the words to the song) The snow is a different matter entirely, you need to get into the snow angels, slides, (Get the baking trays out), and snowmen with a full fashion sense!
10. The power of safety
We live in a world full of risk. These risks arise in social media, the community, school, or in relationships. (No point in sugar-coating). It is paramount that you set boundaries, rules, and guidelines for your children to follow, to help protect them as best possible. It is impossible to observe them when not in your care, so the steps you teach around safety are key.
There are too many stories/videos/posts on social media that makes safety a number one priority from the day they are born. Be mindful of suffocating them, as this can act against you, as they start to get older. I’m facing some real pain at present with the 13-year old daughters!
How will I know I’m a good Dad?
Easy answer, your children tell, show, and react to you. You’ve read all the tips above and will now act upon them, to the best of your ability. There are no shortcuts in raising children, you will battle down and do it, or you won’t. There is always a choice. Depending on your peer group, family, and circle of friends, they will tell you what to do, or what not to do. You can take their advice or walk your path.
These things worked for me as the Dad of twin girls. (They read this article, also; feedback is key!) You can use these tips as guidelines, or develop your own. You don’t need a global pandemic to spend time with your kids. No, that’s your job.
This post was originally published on Medium.
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