At NFI Headquarters, we call him the “24/7 Dad.” If you hang around us long enough, you'll hear us talk about how we think every child needs one. What we're really talking about is an involved, responsible and committed father. A dad who knows his role in the family. One who understands he is the model for his sons on how to be a good man. Likewise, if he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children.
In our fathering handbooks and training programs, there are four ways we think every responsible father should interact with their child. These four steps come with a guarantee: if you implement them, you will be a 24/7 Dad!
If you do these four things, you'll be the dad who communicates his thoughts, feelings, and actions on a daily basis in a way that respects others. Say this aloud: "The problems with communication start with me and no one else." Repeat this to yourself. Now, you're ready for the four magical steps!
1. You Should Encourage Your Child.
Kids can sometimes send themselves bad messages. As your child grows, he or she may learn to think and say things like they’re no good, they’re not smart, they’re too short or too tall.They hear these messages from friends, from parents, and pick them up from watching TV and on that ole world wide web. Teach your child to send good messages to himself, such as “I’m smart,” “I’m going to do well on this test,” “I can become anything I want to become.” This is a skill that will last a lifetime. Odds are good that if you are doing this for yourself—it will come out in your words to your children. So get yourself in front of a mirror alla Stuart Smalley (google "Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley" after reading this post) if you must.
2. You Should Honor Your Child's Wants.
Kids are by nature the most impatient human beings alive—rivaled only by teens. Kids want things or want to do things the exact moment it enters their minds. My beautiful and precious daughters will ask for a cup of milk and wonder why the cup of milk doesn't appear in their hands as they are making the request for said milk. Kids don’t liketo wait. Depending on the age of your child, you can try telling him or her that you hear what they want and that you know it’s important to them.
Hearing what someone says honors them. This doesn’t mean that you give in to their every wish, only that you hear them. Check in to make sure you know what they want and then respond. Hearing what they want will “soften the blow” in case you need to tell them they can’t have it, can't do the thing they want, or that they’ll have to wait longer for what they want.
3. You Should Avoid Bad Labels.
Don’t give your children a bad label based on what they want, say, or do. Dads often label what they want, say, or do as bad, lazy, dumb, and crazy. Worse, Dads often label their children as bad, lazy, dumb, and spoiled to describe their children as a whole. Bad labels only create more of what you don’t want to see.
When your children want, say, or do something you don’t agree with, don’t put a label on it. Here's an example of what not to say, “That’s dumb to want a bike right now.” Instead say, “I understand you want a bike right now. Bikes are awesome. Your dad loves bikes. Let's try and get you a bike in a few weeks. There are some things a rider of bikes must do in order to get a bike.” Okay, you get the point. Good labels will create more of what you want to see. Labels such as good, smart, special, and caring will go a long way to helping you and your child enjoy your talks.
Bad labels only create more of what you don’t want to see. When your children want, say, or do something you don’t agree with, avoid putting a label on it.4. You Should Focus on Teaching Your Child.
This step isn’t as easy for us dads. We can tear down our children after our children do something wrong; or, we can point out what our children did wrong again and again without saying what our children did correctly. This approach doesn’t help our child learn from his or her mistakes.
If you don't point out the good a child does, the child will most likely only hear the bad labels instead of seeing the lessons. When your children do something wrong, ask, “What did you learn?” or “What should you do differently the next time?” If your child doesn't see the lesson, point it out after you give him a chance to say what he learned. This approach honors your child and makes it more likely he will listen to you. Besides, you might be surprised at how much your child will learn from his own mistake. Use this tip not only when your child does something wrong, use it when they do something right. Perhaps he can do even better the next time.
What's missing from this list? What have you found really works in talking with your child? Age specific examples are always appreciated!
photo credit: liveitupwithus