Here are five things you can start doing to be a better dad.
- Stop and listen
- Be the bad guy
- Do what they want to, when they want to do it
- Don’t solve the problem for them
- Put the device down
- Tuck them in
Stop and listen
When Aidan wants my attention, even if I’m in the office working, I’ll stop what I’m doing, look at him and listen to what he has to say. Now, I’m not perfect I don’t do this every time (I wish I did). He is also 11, so sometimes I need to interrupt the story he’s telling me about a baseball game he is playing on the Xbox to tell him that I have work I need to get finished. Doing this lets him know that I care about him and what he has to say. It also provides the opportunity to let him know when it isn’t the right time to try and grab someone’s attention.
Be the bad guy
Yep, it sucks, I hate doing it, but I have to let Aidan fail and deal with the consequences of that failure. More often that not I can’t help but feel like a big a-hole for doing it too. I do it because it will teachhim to stand up for himself, and that he is going to fail, bad things will happen, but it isn’t the end of the world.
I love and hate this quote at the same time.
That is what it means to be a parent – to teach your child to live without you. – Nicole Krauss
Do what they want to do, when and how the want to do it
Every now-and-then I’ll play Halo with Aidan. It used to be that I would be the better video game player. Not any more. Being a competitive personality it is very difficult for me to lose especially to an 11 year old. But I’ll let him school me all day, because he enjoys it. Not just the pure domination of him repeatedly blowing me away, but it provides me the opportunity to ask him questions and get him to teach me something. A skill that I know will serve him well int he future.
Don’t solve the problem for them
Similar to letting Aidan school me in Halo, I’ll let him doing things his way, even if I know a better way or that his way won’t work. He needs to fail, figure out where he went wrong and then fix that misstep. That is the only way he’ll become a better, more self-sufficient person.
Put the device down
For a long time I was distracted. Emails, status updates, things I needed to do and see. I couldn’t miss a thing. My face was always down in my phone reading what others were doing or what they needed me to do. That is fine when you’re working, but you can’t always be working. Take the time to disable your email alerts, turn off Facebook, or better yet, turn off the device entirely. I go the jitters the first few times I did it. It took some getting used to. But, when everything didn’t burn down and the world kept spinning without me there to make sure that was happening, a great thing happened. I got to present in the moment and enjoy the things that were going on right then.
One more little thing – you don’t have to take pictures of everything. Take a few photos, then put the phone/camera away. You’ll enjoy what you are doing more, and then you’ll have actual memories when you look back at those photos.
Tuck them in
The last thing is to tuck them in at night, at least when they are young. Luckily Aidan still let’s my wife and me tuck him in at night. It is a great thing to give him a hug and kiss and tell him to sleep fast every time you can. I’m sure for Aidan it is a comforting thing to know that that will happen every night.