Make Everyday a Father’s Day: Five Parenting Tips Just for Dads
Let’s face it, sometimes fathers feel a bit left out. They may feel a little unsure of their abilities in the parenting department, and women, like many other species, can smell fear. Not only do we moms want to save a father from feeling bad, we also want to prevent as much fussing as possible, by both the father and the child. So we step in. The problem is, sometimes we don’t step out again. Having a mom is great, but children need the special perspective that a dad can offer. As a dad, here are the things that us moms want you to know to feel confident about your parenting abilities:
1. Don’t be afraid to be alone with your child. If your child is in the baby stage, the most important thing to remember is this: babies cry sometimes. You cannot always prevent it. So, rather than being intimidated by it, go through a mental checklist: Is the baby hungry, tired, hot, cold, or in need of a diaper change? If you’ve tried to fix the above issues and the crying continues, try a change of scenery (and bring the baby with you). If possible, walk outside, several laps around the house, or up and down the street. If you’re not sure how to work the stroller, don’t use it. You will eventually succeed in calming your baby. And, in doing so, you will feel an incredible sense of pride in yourself and your “dad instinct.”
2. Children love to cuddle with their dads. You guys have some kind of kid-calming mechanism implanted in you somehow, I am convinced. You’re warm, you’re calm, you talk in a low-pitched voice, and you can sit for hours, snuggling and watching baseball. Revel in the fact that you have a talent that mom may not have – the snuggling factor. Kids often seek mom out for emergencies (no matter how trivial), but if you are open to it, they will seek you out for snuggling, for comfort, for security. You lucky dog, you.
3. Though mom may have it all under control, you need to be “in the loop.” Find out what disciplinary actions have been taken while you were away. What’s the back story? It is imperative that you and mom work together to raise your child. You need to know what has happened in the day, good and bad, so that any transfer of responsibility is seamless. Children know when we are uninformed and they use it to their advantage. You can count on that. So, if you are not told what has happened, please ask. Your competence depends on it.
4. Your words mean more than you will ever know. Dads tend not to understand how important they are. You may not have had quite as much experience with children as mom has, but your words of comfort, support, love, and pride will stay with your child forever. Choose your words carefully, for they carry with them the self-esteem that your child will draw upon as she grows. Don’t underestimate the power of your words. What you say does matter.
5. Play. You work a lot, so when you are with your kids, play. Stay vigilant, be safe, choose age appropriate activities, but gosh darn it, play. It is the best way to bond with children, because it equalizes you, at least for the time that you are playing. Children “let their guard down” a little when they play, and you may learn how your child is feeling about things as you play. Dads tend to be pretty good listeners, so as you play, if you notice your child beginning to open up, just listen. You don’t have to give advice. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. Every now and then, say, “Do you feel like you need any help with that situation?” and take it from there. Playing opens the doors to having fun, but it also shows your child that you are willing to be there for him.
Dads sell themselves short when they shy away from parenting. All parents need practice to parent well. Give yourself a chance to practice, and if you do it wrong, your child will let you know, regardless of their age. To learn to work as a team, you and your child have to suit up and give it a try. You have talent, I promise you. Now, go get ‘em, Dad.
Jennifer M. Koontz is a mother and an educator who has taught students of all ages, from preschool through college. She is the author of When Your Centerpiece is Made of Play-Doh and the Dog Has Eaten Your Crayons: A Mother’s Perspective on Parenting. For more information, please visit, www.facebook.com/jmkoontzforparents.