As kids move out of 100% mommy mode, dads play an ever more vital role. More and more research show that dads are vital to kids’ development. Here are some life lessons that we all had to learn sooner or later. Now’s the time for dad to get out the blackboard and start teaching.
1. You can’t succeed without trying. Or the corollary: FOCUS! This is a hard one, especially for little kids, but you should sow the seeds early by repeating that what looks easy usually comes from hours and years of hard work. Reinforce slow steps to learning big things. That’s why sports and music are good training grounds for kids because they see how you develop building blocks to greater mastery. Try to avoid messages that might give them the idea that success is usually just about luck. Even if you believe there’s a grain of truth to that in the big picture, few people are in the position to take advantage of luck if they aren’t prepared for it.
2. You’re important, but so are other people. Empathy is hard to teach, but you can suggest things to your child so that he looks at a situation from another person’s vantage point. Just by asking, “How do you think that makes him feel?” after a playground incident is better than just some random discipline. Of course, it’s better to have this discussion at other times. Try using it around the dinner table when you’re talking about normal events. You may be surprised at how your child looks at the experiences of other people.
3. Big words show strength, not weakness. In our long spiral downward in education, one more thing that has been devalued is vocabulary. Big words don’t just mean pretentiousness, they are the building blocks for big ideas. Sure, we all know people who use a big word when a short one says the same thing, but good communication skills involve knowing how to use and understand a broader vocabulary. A recent study in the Journal of Applied Development and Psychology says that in families with two working parents, dads have a greater impact on children’s language development than moms. Kids will build bigger vocabularies if you use big words. Never dumb down your speech for your child.
4. Commitments are important. No kid should ever have to take ballet lessons for 18 years because of a decision made in nursery school. However, if an activity that sounded good at the beginning sours after a few lessons, it’s still important to keep on going to keep the original commitment. Don’t let your kids move from thing to thing based on the whim of the moment. This in turn, will help them learn to think through promises and decisions before making them, knowing that actions have consequences. The same goes for other other types of commitments including school lessons and thank you cards. It’s often easier for parents to let things slide especially when many projects involve mom and dad doing half the work. In these cases, it’s up to dad to consider the long term lessons of escaping the consequences.
5. Crying never solved any problem. Babies cry for a reason; because they can’t communicate what they want and need. Without resorting to calling your child a baby, make sure he or she understands that tantrums don’t work for achieving results. This is a hard lesson for harried moms and dads to learn, since tantrums can be embarrassing when used effectively. However, you can teach your child that the time for communicating through crying is over by being patient and not giving in to the immediate demand. Tantrum behavior can be “unlearned” after repeated and consistent non-reinforcing behavior. If they do not, you should talk to your pediatrician.