What does it mean to “show love?” Hugs, kisses, kind words, not pestering someone incessantly with questions, or telling someone, “I love you”? As a Dad of three young children (ages 9, 9 and 5), I’m constantly learning more from my kids on this subject than I ever thought possible.
If your kids are similar to mine, you see them showing love more often and more intensely than adults. For example, when my daughter greets me after I finish the workday, she stops whatever she is doing, runs over to me with arms wide open hollering “Daaaaaddyyyyy!” There’s a huge smile on her face as she wraps my leg up in a bear hug and I almost trip over her.
My sons are a little more reserved, and that could be due to their age, gender, or their shy personalities. But they still have the biggest, goofiest, most charming smiles reflecting in their eyes and hearts when we’re having a good time together.
The thing learned from my kids is when they are joyful, their whole body, voice, and posture all change in an explosion that can’t be missed. It’s obvious when they love someone. They don’t hide it.
Are all children born like this?
Maybe kids have a natural ability to show unapologetic, unrestrained love and affection from birth. However, sadly, research has shown that not all children display affection as easily as my children. Kids who grow up in abusive homes learn to keep their distance from adults and each other, probably to avoid getting hurt or disappointed. Perhaps one too many bad episodes poison their ability to openly show love.
I’m not an expert in child psychology, but I have observed families that are healthy and non-abusive, but where Dad and Mom are more reserved in showing affection. Their children, as well, are more reserved and less likely to explode into open displays of love. I can only conclude that what we Dads and Moms show them in our homes matters.
More is caught than taught
In past posts on finances and generosity, I’ve mention the phrase, “More is caught than taught” applies to children. We can tell them to be loving, but they learn by observing more than anything. When I give my wife a hug, a kiss on the check, a back rub, or just sit quietly beside her, I model a healthy outward display of love to my kids. They see this and absorb it. On the other hand, on occasions when I am agitated, quick-tempered, or emotionally cold with my wife, the kids tended to act out more.
Dads teach by doing. Teaching by preaching may work with math or sports, but not so much with love and affection.
Saying “I Love You”
February is Valentine’s month. As a husband and father, I recognize that saying “I love you” with chocolate, flowers, or a thoughtful gift can happen any time of the year. It can also happen when I do the dishes for my wife after a well-cooked meal, or even a not-so-well-cooked meal. When I open the door for her or help pick up when the kids come roaring in after a Saturday afternoon outdoor adventure, I’m showing my kids my “I love you.” When I turn off the TV, put aside the laptop, and invest my time and interest in whatever activity they are interest in, I’m showing my kids “I love you.”
Board games? Yes, I can play kids Monopoly with the best. Discussing the latest “mods” to the popular game Minecraft? A must for any parent who has a kid connected to the Internet.
But most importantly, it happens when I say, “I love you” every day. I tell my wife and kids each day, “I love you” accompany the words with a hug and a light kiss. Words are powerful, and so is repetition. The children are watching, learning, and imitating me. That’s a powerful thought and encouragement to remember that showing love starts with me.
Sid Whiting is the father of three and the husband of one. He lives with his wife Gail and their children in Springfield, Missouri. He also enjoys real estate investing, serving in the 135th Army Band as a percussionist and bass guitarist, and plays in the Praise Band "Soul Purpose" and the "Hallelujah Bells" hand bell choir. He can be reached for comment or question at email@example.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WiseSteward).
In my attempt to be a good dad, one of my biggest challenges over the years has been the task of being consistent. Then again, maybe that is one of our biggest challenges in life – period. We all have good intentions; to workout, to eat healthy, to save, to spend more time with our loved ones, but things happen. We get busy, distracted, tired, and before we know it, we’re hit and miss in many aspects of our lives, and often our kids suffer the most from our inconsistencies.
When my boys were very small, my wife and I struggled with different areas of inconsistency. She had a hard time holding three, small, adorable, chubby-faced boys accountable for their actions, and I had a hard time getting home to ensure I had enough time with those same chubby cherubs. We had to recognize, early on, that consistency in all aspects – from consequences for harmful actions to incorporating a nightly routine – was vital to our boys’ overall health and success. When children have loving boundaries and reliable routines, they tend to feel safe. And when we create lifestyles, or atmospheres, in which our children feel safe, they ultimately feel, and are, loved.
Sounds great, right? Sounds easy, right? Well, to the latter, I would have to say not so much. Our home was “trial and error central.” Though this may sound quite contradictory, in our endeavors to create consistency, we also had to remain flexible. For instance, it was far easier to be consistent with bedtime routines, when our sons were small. Once they entered the worlds of competitive sports, bands, clubs, youth groups, and even homework projects, we had to make adjustments. But, we worked hard to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We simply had to get the baby a bigger tub.
At the core of our quest for consistency, was our desire for them to always sense the deep expression of our love for them, in both good and bad times. My wife knocked this out of the park. She is your quintessential, doting mom. While I am far from a silent type, I was not as mushy in my overall expressions. What I learned is that this is not only pretty typical for dads, but it’s completely okay. Over the years, I discovered ways to consistently show my boys love and support in everything from (wordlessly) building with Legos to painting model cars. Again, without much small talk.
But, speaking of talking, who says moms have to do all the asking about the school day? My wife would laugh and say she peppered the boys with 100 questions after school and maybe received one answer, typically, “Uh-uh.” I found I often could make one little inquiry, and a generally quiet boy would talk for half an hour. I just had to be willing to ask, and then more importantly, be willing to listen . . . really listen!
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that intentional consistency is one of the greatest ways to show my boys that I deeply love them. As a matter of fact, now they are grown, it is not the blowout birthday parties or extravagant Christmas gifts my boys recall making them feel special, it was, and is, the fact that I was, and am, there for them. Never overestimate the temporal things we spend so much time and money trying to get and give; never underestimate what we give our children by consistently engaging in their everyday lives.
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
eGood dads are not always tall, handsome, charming, or engaging. Some are short, average looking, quiet and shy. But a good dad always looks like a hero to his children. His super power may be juggling oranges. His cape may be a bath towel. His undershirt may not have an ‘S’ on the front but it might say ‘World’s Greatest Dad”, a gift from last Father’s Day.
No doubt, dads come in all shapes sizes and dispositions. But all good dads have something special to share with their children. It might be his presence at any important event. It could be his duty to see to his kids’ well-being and safety. It could be sharing his love of by sharing his interests. Usually, they just do what they need to do for their family.
Following are examples of three dads I know personally, all of whom could be nominated for “Dad of the Year” in any year!
The first Dad has a bald spot on the back of his head. He is overweight and misses his days as a smoker. He never finished high school, but he has an honest, difficult job and works very hard every day. He has a charming habit of mispronouncing words and has a hearty laugh. He has two children who have been adored by him and his mother. They are getting the education he never had. They have been encouraged, loved, guided, and corrected. A more dedicated father you will not find. This is what a good dad looks like.
This next dad is quiet. He loves sports but will pass up a big game for his family. Growing up without a loving father, he was fortunate to have a mother and aunt who worked together to raise him and his sister. His aunt took him to basketball and baseball games, cultivating his love of sports. He waited into his thirties for the right person to marry and he and his wife now have a young son and a baby daughter. You should see the look in his eye when he talks about, or plays with his three-year-old son. He makes sure he has lots of balls around, just in case his son takes to them. He gently holds his eight-month-old daughter in the air and kisses her on the neck and cheeks. Diapers, cooking, laundry, he pitches in no matter the chore. This dad will be the dad he never had. His dedication to fatherhood and family are as obvious as his soft-spoken nature. This is what a good dad looks like.
The third dad stays up late to catch up with a workload that could never be caught. When he does take a break, he researches his interests in nature, science, and a myriad of other things. But he is never too busy to teach his two young daughters about different kinds of bugs, the constellations, or plants. He combs his older daughter’s hair in the morning, not as well as her mother, but not bad. Often he speaks German to his girls to spark their interests in language, even his two-year-old. This dad talks up to, not down to his daughters. He teases, hugs, cheers, and loves. This is what a good dad looks like.
These are three men I know in my life who are worthy symbols of excellent fathering. A good dad, with a good mom, will give a child the most basic elements necessary to have successful lives. That being the knowledge they are loved, self-confidence, a support system, encouragement, understanding limits, and so much more. So what does a good dad look like? He’s tall or short, fat or skinny, black, white, or brown, bald or bearded, quiet or loud, but most of all he is engaged with his children, he is a mentor, and he is proud—to be a dad!
Michael Smith, the author of The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Need, is the father of three adult children and grandfather of four. He is a retired US Air Force officer and resides with his wife in St. Louis, MO. Michael can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.
I was a fair high school wrestler. I wasn’t great but I had a coach who was greatly invested in me. Coach Sensenbaugh trained with me before and after school and on and off the mat. He talked to me about having a winning edge to overcome bigger and stronger opponents.
Coach would say to me, “Sippy, If you are going to succeed at wrestling you need to succeed at everything.”
I have learned it is not easy to succeed at everything. There are variables beyond our control and adversities, too. I never became the champion I aspired to be. I did become a better wrestler, though. I also become a better student, a better worker, and I believe, a better Dad, as well.
Today, I am teaching my boys how to wrestle their way through life. I want them to be prepared and to have a winning, positive edge when they face variables beyond their control and adversities too – and especially in the most important arena of their lives, their home.
Of course I want my boys to be good students and good workers and to enjoy the activities they choose—be it weightlifting or water ballet. But what I really want for my boys is to have love in their home – and lots of it. I want them to feel secure and hopeful, joyful and filled with mercy. I want my boys to be great lovers and partners to their spouses. I want their spouses to be great lovers, too, to be good friends and to care for each other. Together, I want my boys and their spouses to create a wonderful, unconditional, patient, and nurturing love in their home in which their children feel safe and secure no matter the variable or adversity.
I want my boys to know that such love in the Home does not happen by accident. It takes coaching and training. And we don’t always succeed. I once got beat in a wrestling match 13-1. My coach told me to shower up. We would begin again.
I am not always the Dad I want to be. I sometimes need to shower up and begin again. I am learning that I can change old habits; I can break unhealthy cycles; and I can free myself hurts and disappointments. I need help. I need lots of it. I need you. I need my wife’s patience and sometimes I need her forgiveness. But what I am learning through coaching and training is that I can be a better Dad than what I am.
It is not easy to be a Dad. We may need to wrestle against ourselves. But when we train together and help each other we can become better Dads each day. We can create the Love in our homes that we want for our children.
Thank you for partnering with me. I am cheering for you
Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org