Am I A Fraud? Are You? Can I Be A Better Dad?
Someone recently commented that I was a fraud. Somehow my attempts at becoming a better dad and sharing my learning’s make it so. Let me make this abundantly clear; I’m not a parenting expert! The reason Ive built this page and wrote a book is because I’m simply a fan of doing my best to be the best dad I can be. Aren’t we all frauds as parents? Aren’t we all just pretending to be experts when, in reality, we are following conventional sound bites and calling it wisdom? How often do we level judgement and derision at our own children then pat ourselves on the back because we’ve “won”. We often hear Things like: “Children should be seen and not heard”, “Do as I say not as I do” or “I brought you into this world I can take you out” (threatening murder?…..seriously!!).
I’m sure you can think of countless others. Why are these outdated notions still prevalent? Is it because they sound good? Is it because they’re easy to remember? Are they true?
Being Aware Of Your Own Emotions Is An Improvement.
I think these memes persist because most of us are unaware of our own emotions and inner garbage. I think it’s a way to justify not having to think about our own behavior. Ultimately, it’s a way to take your emotions and unrequited needs out on your kids. Although I’m no expert It seems to me that so often we are focused on controlling our kids behavior because its what we need! “Be quiet!” because I need you to be quiet. “Stop doing this, that, everything else.” because I need you to, or because I’m so worried that other parents will judge me. What a sin to break antiquated notions of all the other “experts”.
Have you ever stopped to consider why your kids do what they do? If your answer is: “To get under my skin”, “They just want their way” “or “They just do it for attention”. I would argue that those answers really imply “How dare you inconvenience me with your needs”. My reply to “They’re just doing it for attention” is “What’s wrong with that?”. Don’t we all just want attention? How many times from your own childhood did you just want your parents to pay attention to you and were made to feel ashamed for that need? Now as an adult you still feel like you deserve attention from your spouse, friend, boss etc. and that’s ok but when our children want our attention…how dare they?! If our bosses spoke to us the way, we sometimes speak to our kids would we still work for them?
What Can We Do To Get Better At It?
I’m certainly not advocating that children should never face consequences for their action. Not at all! I’m a fan of boundaries. What I’m saying is that we pay attention to WHY they’re doing what they’re doing and then take it a step further to why it affects us. Let me give you an example:
One evening I was bathing my 2-year-old son before bed. He was splashing and shouting like crazy. It was loud, my clothes were soaked, and nothing was getting done. I was about to launch into the righteous anger that only parents can have. Instead I took a deep breath and took stock of what was in my own head. I was feeling the stress of my day, I was anxious to get him to bed so I could sit down, and ultimately, I was feeling like he was doing all of this just to make me mad. We all know kids love getting yelled at right?
Seriously 2 years old and he’s already so manipulative that he just wants to tick me off. After 11 seconds of self reflection he looked very different. I no longer saw a conniving little devil, I saw a little boy, having a wonderful time with his dad and I almost ruined it by taking my shit out on him. Now who’s manipulative?
I changed my approach I said “You look like you’re having fun.” he shouted “Ya dad!”. I said, “I’m having fun too but we need to get ready for bed so we can have even more fun tomorrow”. He said “Ok”. And within 6 minutes he was clean and out of the tub. Some how I bested the master manipulator and convinced him that things other than fun needed to occur. I managed to achieve this with out a major blow out or demanding that I, as the omniscient parent, get my way.
So, what am I suggesting? I’m suggesting you as the adult become aware of how you feel and why you feel it. This is not going to be easy, especially for us guys. I’m sure many of you are cringing every time you read words like “feeling” or “emotion”. You have emotions so just deal with them, you know, like a man. For so many of us we have become unaware of our own needs and emotions. I think its because as kids we too were told they were inconvenient or didn’t matter. Do you see the pattern?
My Challenge To You Dad?
I challenge you to practice identifying your emotions when its easy. Just check in with yourself from time to time. When your engaged in a hobby, when your stressed at work, enjoying time with your friends or significant other, when you’re in traffic, etc. Simply state in your head or out loud “I feel (insert feeling here)”. This simple step has brought me inner quiet when my emotions begin to get the best of me. It allows me to become aware of my emotions and to realize the negative ones don’t last. I don’t always get this right; BUT when I do It’s helped to create calm instead of adding to the chaos.
Now take it a step further and ask your child “How are you feeling?” It’s a very simple thing you can do to engage your kids in a new and different way. You can help them to realize that their feelings matter to you instead of inadvertently conveying that they don’t.
I often ask the question “What kind of dad do you want to be?”. No one has ever answered that they want to be a yelling screaming domineering bully. SO, if my mission is to provide super simple stuff for dads, I offer this: There is only one variable to parenting and that variable is: how will you respond? Believe it or not you have a choice in how you respond so try a new response.
Throughout the day simply check in with yourself. Heck schedule it if you need to (we schedule everything else) maybe at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, during your commute whatever.
Step 1 take a deep breath
Step 2 simply state in your head or out loud (I feel……….)
I believe Practicing these skills when you need them the least will help you use them when you need them the most, but hey I’m no expert.
Happy Dadding everyone!