If you have been parenting for even a minute, your world has been bombarded with all sorts of advice on what you should do. Good dads know that they are to model love, laughter, and good work ethics. Not only do good dads know these are essential, but we strive to show them to the best of our ability. When one or all of these things seem to take hold in one of our kids, we celebrate. We are thrilled, even a little proud that we could play such a positive role in their overall development as a human being.
But, what about the things we should be doing that aren’t so “good looking” on the surface? Sometimes, dads need to be willing to be what the world might deem “unattractively transparent” so that kids can learn some pretty deep life lessons. It is with this mindset that I think of three things in particular that our kids should see us doing, but often some things that make us feel pretty uncomfortable.
As parents, especially dads, we can have this innate desire to be seen as “superheroes” in the eyes of our young. Always the one with the great advice, the right answer, the solution to any and all problems. Always the one to swoop in and make things look easy. But, is that real life? And, more importantly, will our kids always be in situations where someone else will save the day? Struggle is part of life…real life…any life. If our kids never see us struggle, they will never have the opportunity to see us persevere. The ability to persevere in spite of challenging circumstances is a much-needed skill in order to be successful, but many young people lack it. It’s okay to let your kids see you struggle, as long as they see you persevere through it.
Yup. I said it. Kids should see their dads cry. They also should see them laugh. Maybe not every second of every day, but crying and laughing are part of the emotional coping process. Now, you may not be the crying type and I can’t say I have cried that many times in front of my boys over the past almost 30 years, but they have certainly seen the eyes water on a few occasions. It isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of life. Let the kids know your emotional lights are on, somebody is home, and that somebody knows how to cope with the heartache and joy this life presents.
I will be the first to admit it, before my wife and kids can… I have a hard time saying I am wrong. But, admit I must, for wrong I often am. If you look around, ours is a culture in which many have a hard time conceding fault. Taking responsibility is not something humans tend to want to do. It's critical for our sons and daughters to witness us not only making mistakes, but also owning up to them. We must exhibit the humility necessary to say, “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me so that we can continue to live and love and work together?” Can you imagine if every person on social media possessed this skill? Our world would forever be changed. And in a good way. Dads, this kind of behavior gives our kids an example and experience to be the kind of adult people that will be skilled to develop deep relationships.
So, as you ponder the things to let your kids see… and not see… remember to let them see you struggle, cry, and apologize. This just might lead to kids who can readily persevere, cope, and humbly get along with everyone else on the planet.
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 email@example.com
“Say you’re sorry.”
Many parents instruct children to express regret for thoughtless actions to another using these words. Head down, face frowning, the child mumbles “Sorry.” In return, he may hear, “Sorry too” or “That’s alright.”
It’s really not alright. No one really feels much better, except perhaps the adult, who believes he has done his job in helping a child learn the importance of an apology or of accepting the apology of another.
This is pretty much the place many adults are stuck when it comes to their experience of asking for or offering forgiveness to another. They recall a shame-faced, command performance required by a parent or other significant adult when they were young. It only happened because someone bigger and more powerful than them was requiring it. In actuality, the thing for which they were likely sorriest was getting caught.
Ideally, by the time we reach adulthood, we should be able to reflect on the impact of our actions and at least try to take the perspective of someone other than ourselves. Empathy requires trying to understand how another might feel, even if we don’t share their experience. It’s an important tool to have in one’s toolbox when it comes to offering forgiveness.
There are benefits to letting go of our right to even the score with another. Most of us understand this. The harder part is to actually forgive. How does one do this, especially if the hurt is longstanding and particularly grievous. Here are some steps to consider:
1. Contrary to what you may have experienced as a child, forgiving someone does not mean saying, “That’s alright.” If it’s alright, it doesn’t require forgiveness. Only things that were not acceptable, that hurt or did damage to us or someone we love, require actual forgiveness.
2. Forgiving someone does mean giving up the right to get even. It means cleaning up the revenge scenarios in our head, chasing them out, and locking the door. If holding a grudge means allowing someone to live rent free in your head, then letting go of the grudge suggests sweeping them out of the house and chasing them down the road.
3. Forgiving someone may also mean telling yourself a different story. Perhaps you’ve identified yourself as a victim for a long time. Letting go of the anger and resentment means at least trying to understand what might have influenced another to act as he or she did without attaching a nasty label. It means eliminating ugly names and referring to them as a person with shortcomings and weaknesses.
4. Telling yourself a different story also means telling yourself what kind of person you want to be in the face of this wound or unkindness. How would you like to manage hurt and anger? What might you need to do to live above and beyond smoldering resentment? Many people find spiritual resources to be helpful at times like this. Is that something you could access?
5. Forgiveness may or may not mean reconciliation. It’s not safe or wise to reconcile with an unrepentant abuser. There are times when we must maintain strong boundaries with difficult people, limiting the amount of time we spend with them, particularly if they take no ownership for their troublesome or quarrelsome behavior. We can still forgive for our part, but true reconciliation requires both parties to admit their part in the problem and work toward rebuilding trust with each other.
Much more has been written about forgiveness. If it’s an area where you are struggling, speaking with a professional (clergy, therapist) or even a close friend can be helpful in letting go and moving on for your benefit and that of your child.
Dr. jennifer baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.