I’m a grandfather who, upon retirement, is looking back at fatherhood hoping to help fathers of today. I loved being a dad, and being a grandfather maybe even better. Here are seven ideas I found from my experiences, which are critically important to understand when raising kids.
1. Wink, smile, look at them in a way they can feel the love.
Most dads say “I love you” to their kids. Some never say it. But for those of us that do, it can get to be routine. That’s not to say to stop saying it, but there are other ways of saying I love you that pierce right into their hearts! Special moments can be found where just eye contact will let them know you care and that they are very important to you.
2. Don’t treat all your kids the same.
Have you heard of the “average” kid? Well, he/she does not exist! The average kid is a statistic. Of course, you will find common traits in kids such as being, shy, active, loud, picky, anxious, careless, it goes on and on. This fact means you can’t treat kids the same. Your interactions should be tailored to their needs because every kid is different socially, regarding behavior, intellectually etc. Most assuredly, they should all be treated fairly, but it would not be fair to treat them all the same.
3. Your children want to be disciplined.
Your kids will fight you and challenge you at every turn–until they know the routine. If you are consistent, they will know arguing is useless and they won’t do it after a while. As they get older, there will be rules they don’t care for and they will try to talk you out of them. “You must be home by 11 PM,” you say. “But dad, my friends can stay out until midnight!” Sometimes you can and should give in, but if you have hard and fast, but reasonable rules, then stick to them. The rules tell them you care enough about them that you want them to grow safely into responsible adults. Their ego will be angry but their true being will love you!
4. You are not your wife.
You are a dad, a man. You are not their mother, a woman. You are different and teach different things in different ways. Of course, parents must discuss discipline and values, compromise if necessary, and be on the same page on important factors. But do things with your kids that their mom wouldn’t do. Have special routines with your kids. Be yourself. If one parent is a little easier going, then the other parent may be more responsible. If these styles can be balanced in the family, that is good. Better than both being easy going–or both being tough all the time. But never work against each other as parents!
5. They will watch what you do more than what you say.
Your kids are very observant. They pick up your habits very easily–the way you talk, the way you treat people, the way you treat your wife. Most importantly they will notice if you keep your word. They will learn from you that words do have meaning. When you do what you say, then they will know what you say is worth listening to.
6. Don’t ever involve them in your private marital issues.
No matter how old, never complain to your kids about their mom. They may know what you’re unhappy about, but they don’t want to hear it from you. Why upset your children about something in which they have no say or have no fault? When you complain to them, you are the one that doesn’t look good in their eyes.
7. You will regret the gaps.
I have memory gaps involving each of my children. Certain ages they went through can be forgotten. It may be you don’t remember your son playing violin one year, or you recall your daughter playing softball, but it is a blur. Their first days of school, the vacation you couldn’t make, the name of their best friends, are all precious times and facts that deserve remembering. Although we shouldn’t live in the past, we also shouldn’t be without a story. The stories of ‘family’ will warm you when you are in your last days. A fond ‘memory’ lost is worse than almost any ‘object’ lost. Therefore, take photos, tell stories of the past to keep them alive, don’t miss special occasions, and when you do things with your kids be there all the way, in mind and spirit. Not doing this will result in forgetting certain moments which will be treasured even more in the future.
These are things I learned as a dad. I failed at times on all of them as you will likely do as well. But if we keep these lessons in mind, our failures will be minimized and our roles as fathers will be of great value to our children!
Michael Byron Smith is a retired USAF officer and civilian engineer. His interest in fatherhood came about from watching the struggles of his mother raising six children alone and the resultant struggles of his siblings. He has a blog entitled Helping Fathers to be Dads and is the author of “The Power of Dadhood: Be the Father Your Children Need”, published by Familius.com
Michael lives in St. Louis. MO with his wife of 40 years. He has three wonderful children and four beautiful grandchildren.