What is the value message you are sending to your children?
If you’re hurrying, you’re not fathering well.
If you had great teachers in your life, take a moment to consider how they did it. Most likely they were very engaged with you, sharing information while they valued you. There was room for questions, curiosity, play, and understanding.
Teaching is a large part of being a father. Being a great teacher-father, one whose kids listen and learn while feeling valued is more important than just about any other role we play. As we go through the day with our children, it’s important to keep mindful that we are teaching whenever we are with them. “How am I teaching?” can be a great question-rudder for our role as fathers.
Frustration can blur the message.
Every interaction with our children sends information from the most powerful, influential man in their lives—you. This information is in at least two areas: one is the value of our children to us, and the other is the way we want our children to behave in the world. Very often we fathers can be forgetful about the value message we are sending to our children, and get caught up in the world-behavior message.
Consider for a moment that your instruction about the world can deliver a message that our children’s behavior is greater than their value to us. If we’re tired or hurried for example, multi-tasking and feeding our child, making it to work on time, it’s very easy to experience the things you’re doing as being of equal value. After all, they’re all ‘things’. So you might rush with the dishes, rush with packing lunches, rush your child through eating. The world out there is filled with things we must move around.
Wait, is something out of proportion here? Can you see the power of treating your child as having the same importance as the dishes? Or packing a lunch?
Value your child above all else.
The valuing of our children is the primary purpose of our relationships with them. Children who become one of the chores begin to feel like objects without inherent value. The hurried lifestyle our culture promotes—getting more and more, faster and faster—can too easily include the children. How easily our prioritizing the future can replace valuing than them, just long enough to get something done.
The feeding, clothing, caring for our children cannot be separated from our lives with them. There are caretaking responsibilities for all healthy parents. Planning and taking care of these steps is necessary. While you go through the daily routine of keeping them safe and growing, make an effort to prioritize valuing them with your awareness, words, tone.
“Didn’t I tell you to put your shoes on? How many times do I have to tell you?” can be an impatient, threatening judgment that your child is ‘something wrong’. The adage that I don’t disapprove of you, I disapprove of your behavior is part way there.
Our goal is to raise self-aware and helpful children. Part of your job is to use disapproval sparingly. Use encouragement that is emotional and physical. For example, let me help you get your shoes on. This idea includes disapproval of yourself. Beware of feeling inferior when your children are behaving in ways that don’t fit societal norms.
When we judge ourselves as inferior we are more likely to express that feeling to our children.
If something spilled or burned or the socks don’t match, keeping your awareness on the way you value your child while you deal with the challenge is critical. It doesn’t really make good sense to get angry at the situation.
A harsh word can last a lifetime. Even a harsh look can keep a child from feeling loved. When you are hurried, with your awareness of all the “things” that need attention, be sure that valuing your child doesn’t slip off the list.