A month ago, I attended the memorial service for a dear friend of the family who was commonly referred to as “Grandpa John.” He was 92. As his name implied, he WAS the nurturing, loving, caring, “grandpa” of all those he met. He embraced you with open arms, no matter your background, issues, or race, and I feel fortunate he included me in his life.
I thought I knew his story, but when his son and stepson spoke during the eulogy, it really highlighted just how special Grandpa John truly was. Through his life marriages, he was blessed with several children and stepchildren. Even after his second wife left, Grandpa John took on the role of caring for these children on his own.
It was the story of his stepson that touched me the most. When his stepson felt lost after losing his own biological father and mother, it was Grandpa John who was there to love, nurture, support, and guide him to become the man he is today. He never gave up on him when others in his life did.
This story reminds me of the power of positive male role models in our lives who are there for us when we really need them. Whether they are blood relatives or not, we can’t forget to honor THESE people on Father’s Day as well.
Who Fathers Are
If you haven’t already, pay attention to how the media portrays fathers. You may find dads are stupid, beer-drinking, TV-addicted men who love fishing, sports, and cars and offer little positive influence on their children’s lives. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Fathers’ have a powerful presence, and their influence shapes their children’s worlds and their view of themselves. As a father, you may not be consciously aware of your parenting style. You may be missing the mark on mindfully influencing and raising your children to become healthy, confident, and successful independent young adults.
My father was very mindful of his influence in my life. He was 47 and planning on retirement when I was born. So, I feel very fortunate to have had him in my life up until his passing seven years ago at the age of 90. During his lifetime, he taught me many lessons. Most notably, he taught me the value of family, hard-work, achievement, honestly, and education. All of these are strong core values for me, and values I continue to pass down to my own children.
Lessons from Dad
If you mindfully approach parenting, you will honorably serve the title of Dad. Additionally, there are eight key lessons your children should take away from your presence in their lives.
1. Teach them self-esteem.
There are a million ways to work on a child's self-esteem. None of them is as powerful as an adult who shows them they have value. You do this by spending time with them. You talk with them, making sure they know you’re listening. You praise the things they do and they effort they put forth. Finally, you teach them how to be competent.
Remember, praise and encouragement go a lot further than reprimands and restraint.
2. Take care of yourself.
Eat well. Be active. Take care of yourself. Not only will a healthy lifestyle mean you’ll be around longer for them, but you are being a good healthy role model. They will grow up taking care of themselves.
3. Protect them.
As a dad, one of your main roles is protector. There are many ways you need to do this.
Safety is key. When they’re young, child-proof your home and make sure they use a car seat if below a certain age & weight. Also, set a good example and teach them good safety habits by always using your seatbelt.
Financial protection is also important. Make sure you have life insurance, car insurance, an emergency fund, and a will.
4. Spend your spare time with them.
Put down the smartphone or the iPad. Turn off the TV. Make sure that when you’re around, you engage with your kids. If you only come away from reading this with one thing, it should be this:
The thing kids want most from their dads is their time.
5. Show them love.
When you hug your children, or hold their hands, or even by telling them, “I love you,” you go a long way in giving them the tools they need to develop a healthy love for themselves. Additionally, it strengthens the bonds between you and models what a healthy relationship is. As they create other relationships in their lives, they’ll have a deeper understanding of how things should be.
Dads shouldn’t be afraid to show affection. Kids need physical contact, and not just from their moms. Snuggle with them, hug them, and love them.
6. Play and engage with them.
Find activities you like to do together or switch-off coming up with which activities you will do. Don’t just drag the kids along to your activities, and don’t let them decide to do the same thing every time.
7. Be respectful to women.
It doesn’t matter if you have boys or girls, the role you play with your wife, ex-wife, mother, and other female role models in your child’s life will directly influence how they treat those same women. Again, you are their role model.
8. Teach them life skills.
Whether it’s learning about finances, changing a tire, or fixing a sink, use the skills you have to show them how the world works. Make them a part of the process of maneuvering through life, and, where possible, give them specific lessons on how to apply these skills to their own lives.
Remember, it’s great to do things for them, but they will never learn on their own if you ALWAYS do everything for them.
I love talking about how fathers can be such a positive and meaningful part of raising independently successful young adults. Those who know me, also know I love a good quote. In honor of Father’s Day, I found quite a few good ones, but I think this one the best ...
“Dads are like chocolate chip cookies; they may have chips or be totally nutty, but they are sweet and make the world a better place.”
- Hillary Lytle