Today, many dads are far more involved in raising their children than at any other time in history. They play an active role in everything from paternity leave to diaper changing and from drop-offs to pick-ups. Dads are homework helpers and soccer coaches. There are dads who stay at home while their partner works. Other fathers, who work outside the home, are also committed to making a difference in their children’s lives and strive to balance work and family. In my workshops, parenting conversations flow easily and openly between moms and dads. Men understand that their kids are watching and learning what it really means to be a father, and they take this job seriously. As one dad shared recently, “In every moment I am reminded that the way I interact with my kids when they are happy, sad, angry, lost, confused, defiant or afraid is shaping their ideas of what being a dad means to them.”
Have you ever considered that the relationship you establish with your children becomes the blueprint for every other relationship they will enter into during the course of their lives? This can often be a new concept for all parents, not just dads. Before starting your family, you may have thought about what kind of parent you would be and the responsibilities of raising a child from infancy to adulthood. You might have imagined the relationship you would have with your child and vowed that there would be no yelling during times of stress, plenty of patience when your child was struggling to solve a problem, and calm and respectful talk about everything from homework to dating. You might recall your own childhood with fond memories and decide to base your parenting on the way you were raised. Or perhaps you found your own childhood somewhat distasteful and made the decision to do things very differently when it was your turn to be a parent. In either case, as I stand in front of a room full of inquisitive and dedicated parents who attend my classes with a sincere desire to be the best parents they can be for their families, this is the first time many of them have really stopped to consider the correlation between the relationship they establish with their very young children and the impact this relationship has on their children’s future relationships.
Creating an Intentional Plan
Our children will be building relationships for the rest of their lives, and I encourage you to spend time building a solid blueprint for your children to follow. This means paying attention to word choices, discipline decisions, tone of voice, comments, and criticisms. It means taking the time to be intentional, aware, and respectful in a way that stays true to a plan and its solid outcomes. Consider the trust, love, empathy, cooperation, respect and honest communication present in those relationships you value. Imagine the relationship you would like to have with your child. In a perfect world, what would this ideal relationship look like? How would you treat each other? What steps will you take to foster that relationship?
Once you have created a vision, consider these tips to ensure that your children have the best chance at creating a healthy relationship blueprint for their future.
- Focus on strengths. Reframe the way you look at your child to see the positive. It is just as easy to say, “You are tenacious” as it is to say, “You are stubborn.” Highlighting and spotlighting strengths in our kids helps them develop a strong and healthy self-ideal. This will influence every aspect of their relationship with you and the blueprint they build for the future.
- Acceptance. Send the message that you love your children just the way they are today. I know it can be difficult if you are a car fanatic and your son would rather dissect a classic novel than the engine in your 1965 Ford Mustang, or your love of the outdoors is shunned by a daughter who would rather spend the day drawing and painting than on a muddy trail, but the benefits will be immeasurable if you take the time to build a connection around your children’s interests.
- Modeling. Be the person you want your child to be. We are charged with adequately representing the true meaning of the words we use with our kids in order to ensure that our children can live them honestly and recognize them in relationships with others. If you value respect, you must treat your children with respect. Modeling respectful behavior in times of stress will have a much greater impact than demanding your children be respectful.
Every day through interactions with your children you are making decisions, modeling behaviors and investing in your father-child relationship. The challenge is to be intentional in your actions. In honor of Father’s Day, let’s acknowledge the dads and the role they shared in helping us to create our own unique relationship blueprint. Whether it is your father, uncle, grandfather, stepfather or husband, please share a story to honor the male role model in your life.
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