The birth of my first child brought with it feelings of pure joy mingled with a complete sense of inadequacy. My own father left when I was eight and I spent the rest of my adolescence fatherless. The task of being the father I never had was daunting to say the least. There was no model or blueprint to go from. The next several years were a learning experience, but that is what fatherhood is about. No one walks into the job perfect.
To aid those fathers who may feel this same weight of inadequacy, here are a few tips that might just get you through the training period. For those more experienced father's perhaps this will help polish off some of those fathering skills.
. It is very easy to overlook this simple skill. Often we get into the mindset of "father knows best." Whether we are right or not, it is important to listen first to our children. What they say may not change our mind, but if nothing else, they will feel appreciated and that is important for the development of all children. So the next time a child comes in after curfew or uses shaving cream to paint a mural in the hallway, listen first. Then commence with the disciplining.
Consequences instead of punishment
. The father is often portrayed as a disciplinarian. How many of us have the experience of waiting for father to come home to dispense punishment for some act that drove mother over the edge? When father does come home, it's the choice between the switch or the belt. But times have changed and not necessarily for the worse.
Rather than thinking simply punishment, try thinking consequences. Make your child aware that every action carries with it a particular consequence. Even better, sit down with her before she has committed the wrong and discuss with her what should be appropriate consequences. For instance, if she came in after curfew, the consequence would be the loss of going out for a week.
Disciplining with heart
. It is important that your child see you as more than just a disciplinarian. Instead, he should see you as a trusted source of wisdom and counsel when he is faced with challenges in his life. For this reason, it is important not to simply scold a child for his wrongdoing.
It is very tempting to yell, but it's a much better example when a father sets aside his temper and sits down with his child to counsel her. Instead of yelling loudly, counsel softly. Along these lines, be sure to avoid guilt and lecturing. Guilt is a poor motivator and often leads to a distorted view of self later in life. Instead, strive to demonstrate loving concern in the counsel you provide.
Make your time together, their time
. As expecting fathers we often dream of having that son that we can take on fishing trips or to football games. When we are blessed with children, however, we might have a son or daughter who has no interest in fishing or football. Still, we might attempt to drag him out despite his complaining. In the end, it is a bad experience for both.
We must be aware that although he is our child, his interests, talents and preferences are different from ours. As fathers, we need to go out of our way to get to know our kids and their likes and spend time doing what they enjoy. If we do this, then maybe they won't complain so much on that next fishing trip.
Let them be who they are
. Finally, in spite of all the expectations of an expecting father, a child is not a block of wood to be carved into our image. We may want to instill certain values into our children and that is commendable. However, we should never expect a child to be just like us, to achieve what we achieved, to walk the same path we walked. It is their life to command not ours.
Often fathers think that helping a child to achieve her full potential means making the choices in her life that we were not able to make in our own. Rather than carving out your child's destiny for her, hand her the tools and teach your child to use them, so she can carve out her own destiny.
In the end, recognize that there is no perfect parent. Being a good father takes years of practice and much trial and error (emphasis on the error). Don't get discouraged, life is a process of learning. And don't be afraid to say you're sorry when you make a mistake. Your children are more than forgiving.