Being a great dad is a 24/7 workload, but it’s also the most rewarding job of your life!
As often as possible, teach your children decision making and value clarification skills. Not in a classroom style atmosphere, but rather, like it was done decades or even centuries ago. Teach your children in your home, as you leave your house and while out doing errands. Discover every possible way to impress upon their minds the basic values you have as their dad. If you have never thought about your own personal values, then invest some time in this important skill set.
Ask yourself some tough questions:
- What do we want our children to understand about life?
- What values (principles, moral values, ethics) do we want them to embrace? Too many children grow up like weeds – no specific guidance, fertilizer, or tender loving care.
- What lessons did you learn from your parents that you want to pass on to your children?
- What lessons do you NOT want to teach your children from your parents? Again, your parents may have been great role models; and then again, they may have been like mine. My parents divorced when I was thirteen. My dad was married SIX more times and my mom TWO more times. I did not want to imitate their life to my kids. My wife Elaine and I have been married forty-three years. I changed my family heritage and so can you!
After raising three children, I can tell you that they imitate what they see far more than what they hear. With specific preparation, you can guide your child’s mindset towards maturity.
Here are 5 principles to train your children in a non-threatening, leadership stand point:
1 – Become the best at the most difficult job in the world – a wise, gentle, authoritarian dad, who is able to instruct your children to maturity, without squashing their individuality.
How you want your children to behave when they become an adult is what to model before them now. Take a few minutes to reflect a bit. What are your thoughts of your own dad? As you think back through your life, identify specific characteristics you admire and a few you despise about him. Hey, no one else sees your thoughts, so be honest here.
Now apply those ideas to the person you want to be for your children. Take the good attributes and model them for your kids. And be sure to strike the negative traits from your life. That gives you a basis to start working on your role as a father to them.
2 – Show your emotions – be as open as their age allows.
As mentioned in #1, be stern when it matters and gentle when it makes the biggest impact. But allow them to see daddy as real; not some superhero. Give honest, age specific feedback so they learn how to become a better dad than even you or your dad.
3 – Be a fun person to hang out with.
A dad can too often remain serious around his children. Men forget to cut up, wrestle, and play wholesome games with their kids. Don’t worry, they will understand who is in charge, so go ahead and be a kid with them as often as possible. This leads into the next point.
4 – You don’t have to be the “boss” all the time.
Find creative methods for them to make their own decisions. Guide them, but allow them space to fail and learn from their mistakes. I often thought I had to be serious and the one making all the decisions since I was DAD! Over time I say that the kids enjoyed making the schedule for the night together or even where we went on vacation. Elaine and I began to schedule the general travel direction and then tasked the kids with stops along the journey they wanted to see. It helped them work together and learn you cannot do “everything” imaginable.
If you have very young children, select a couple alternatives to choose from. As part of your weekly schedule, whether it be going out to dinner or going for a family-day out, ask them their preference. It’s okay if they choose fast food as a choice or a shopping trip to the store. They are learning to make choices that affect others.
5 – Teach your kids to manage money and time.
Teach them to save, to give to someone/charity in authentic need, and how to enjoy the blessings of finance. Train them with the value of goods and not simply the cost. They should earn their own money (age specific) – not an allowance for doing nothing. Make a list of chores for them to do. Keep their individual age in mind but “pay them” accordingly. If your son is 2 years old, have him pick up his toys daily and pay him ten pennies for instance. Have him place three in a bank, save three pennies for helping someone else, and four for spending on a toy he may see when he gets enough to buy it. If you delay the purchase until he/she earns the full amount of money necessary, they will learn the value of delayed gratification, which will serve them greatly later in life.
If it seems a bit ridiculous to pay for such “work”, keep in mind that when you start them learning at an early age, they will appreciate the value of goods. Children who are given everything they need or want often do not appreciate the value.
Remember this most important rule: Kids learn more from what they see than what they hear!
Model whatever behavior you want them to grow into. Determine what you want them to understand about life and become the best possible person with those values yourself.
- Do you want them to understand love? Love their mom and demonstrate that love in front of them.
- Do you want them to have a good work ethic? Go to work every day and do work around the house, inviting them to join in, even if they won’t do it as well as you.
- Do you want them to be good students? Read in front of them and encourage their own studies.
Start today to embrace the behavior you want your children to imitate, as they are already learning from you! It is never too late or too early to start!