Becoming a new father is one of the most wonderful life events a man can experience. But it can also feel overwhelming. Take heart. By gaining some practical knowledge, setting realistic expectations and creating healthy habits, you can be a great dad!
Here are 10 tips to help get new dads started down the right path:
1. Understand that you matter. Study after study has shown that when children have involved, loving fathers, they learn more, perform better in school and exhibit healthier behavior. Even when fathers do not share a home with their children, their active involvement can have a lasting and positive impact.
It's easy for dads to feel like they aren't needed when their children are newborns, but the opposite is true. Whether you are in a committed relationship with the baby's mother or will just be co-parenting, the relationship you start building with your baby in his or her first few months can positively impact your child's future for years to come.
2. Get to know your child as an individual. Just as every adult is a unique individual with our own temperament, personality, interests and habits, your baby is unique too.
Nurturing your child in a way that supports her individual tendencies helps her feel loved and secure. For example, some children are naturally outgoing and self-motivated, while others are shy and may need more encouragement to try new things. Also, understanding why your child behaves the way he does will also help ease your frustration when faced with challenging parenting situations.
3. Remember that all babies cry. Crying is natural and is a baby's first method of communication. In fact, infants will continue to cry to let you know about their unmet needs until they learn to talk. He may be hungry, wet or tired.
Instead of letting frustration and anxiety build when your child cries, try to reframe the experience as, "My baby is trying to tell me what she needs." It will likely take time for you to learn what your baby's different cries mean. So be patient with yourself too, and remind yourself that each time you try to meet your baby's needs in response to her cries for help, you are building trust and teaching her that the world is a safe place.
4. Be the best version of yourself instead of trying to imitate another dad. Babies don't care about your education level or career. The great news is they don't have the capacity to compare you to other dads, and they will love you for who you are if you are attentive and kind to them.
Just be present with your child and include him at age-appropriate stages in your hobbies and interests. If you like to spend time in nature, invest in an infant carrier or jogger stroller and take her with you. If you like music, play for him. If you like sports, take her to a game to take in the action. There are countless ways to include your child in your everyday life, and he will cherish the time with you no matter how you spend it.
5. Accept that caring for a baby is a full-time responsibility. Shortly after the birth of your child, you will likely realize that this is a 24/7 kind of commitment. That’s when the overwhelm can start to set in, and it's helpful to remember that parenting is done just like every other aspect of life - one day at a time.
Creating routines around eating and sleeping, while it can be hit or miss during the newborn stage, is helpful for making the days and nights go more smoothly. Safety proofing your home is another important part of helping to ensure your child is protected as she moves into the crawler and toddler stages.
6. Familiarize yourself with basic infant development. While it's true that babies differ in when they achieve certain developmental milestones, such as sitting up or saying a first word, it's also true that babies tend to develop in important areas along a fairly specific timeline.
Knowing how your baby might develop in four key areas - physically, mentally, emotionally and socially - can help you set realistic expectations and gain more confidence as a new dad. For example, if you know that most babies start sitting up on their own at about six months, you don't need to be concerned if your baby is still wobbly at four months. A class for expectant and new dads, like PCC and Good Dads offers, will provide this information and give you ideas for encouraging your baby's development. In a pinch, a Google search will help you with the basics too.
7. Take care of yourself too. Moms are constantly told to take good care of themselves, especially during pregnancy and in the baby's first few months. But what about dads? It's just as critical that your physical and emotional needs be met during this transition time too.
If paternity time is available to you through your employer, take advantage of it. But even if you can't take much time off, implementing some simple strategies can help a lot: Sleep when the baby sleeps. Keep meals simple to avoid extra time shopping, cooking and cleaning up. If you have help available, carve out some couple time to do something enjoyable together. Parenthood can feel all-consuming, so even a few minutes of time spent in a refreshing activity can rejuvenate your body and mind.
8. Don't equate a paycheck with love. While it's important to financially provide for your family, earning a paycheck will not translate directly as love to your child. It's been said that love is spelled T-I-M-E. Spending quality time with your child is an invaluable investment that buying more stuff can never compete with. Babies' needs are basic, and they are usually content with just a few developmentally-appropriate toys (or a drawer full of plastic containers!). So focus on giving your child the things money can't buy, and you will both be happier for it.
9. Recognize that all parents feel frustrated sometimes. Having a new baby means lots of changes to routine and can impact many areas of life - physical, relational, emotional, social and financial to name a few. Those changes, coupled with lack of sleep, can lead to feelings of frustration. This is completely normal and taking small steps in managing that frustration can keep it from escalating into full-blown anger.
Try to remember that your baby's actions, no matter how frustrating, are likely normal for his age. Make a conscious effort to relax by taking deep breaths or taking a brisk walk (even inside your house if you're the only one with the baby). Give yourself permission to take a break. Place the baby in a safe place, such as her crib, and give yourself a few minutes away.
10. Ask for help. Having a support system of family or friends - even if it's just one person - to help you during this time of transition can be a game changer. Don't be afraid to rely on them, especially in the first few weeks. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness; it demonstrates maturity in recognizing that you have limits. Having someone watch the baby so you can eat, shower or sleep can make a big difference in how you feel and function.
Lisa McIntire is passionate about helping families in our community and serves as the Executive Director of Springfield’s Pregnancy Care Center (PCC) and is a member of the New Pathways for Good Dads Council. The Pregnancy Care Center is a New Pathways for Good Dads Partner and a great community resource offering a fatherhood program for expectant and new fathers, which includes fatherhood-specific classes and one-on-one coaching with male mentors.
August is here, and unlike some, I’m actually sad that my kiddos will head back to school on the 13th. As a stay-at-home Dad, I’ve been able to stay up late, watching movies and series on Netflix with them. We have had some late night pool parties and junk food runs. Sure the downside, is they tell me they are bored constantly, and are always looking for stuff to do. However, I’ve always got household chores and yard work ready for them when this happens.
I used to think buying school supplies was a fair trade off for having someone else teach and entertain my children, while also feeding them lunch for me. Now, with two teenagers and an 8 year old, the start of school means constant practices and additional fees beyond the cost of paper and pencils.
My youngest, who will be in 3rd grade, has a $98 school supply list when you factor in back pack, ear buds etc. My High School kids won’t get their supply list until later, though I can expect to spend and additional $50-$60 on them.
My other son, will be a Freshman and in band. I had no idea, until now, that they practice so much. There will be morning practices before school, evening practices after school, plus I get to cough up about $300 for him to participate. He will run track in the spring, so I’ve gotta fork out an additional athletic activity fee of $45.
My daughter will be a sophomore this year, and is involved with softball, bowling, choir and track. I feel like I hardly ever see her once she starts school, and this year it may be less, now that she has a car. There are always a ton of expenses and fees that add up with her as well.
Over the next week, we will try to get the kids back on that school sleep schedule. Right now my daughter is up past midnight watching Netflix & listening to music while on FaceTime with her best friend. My oldest son is on Xbox playing while also on FaceTime with friends until I make him shut it all down at midnight. My youngest likes to lay in bed with me and watch Netflix or movies, then heads to the chair in our room to sleep. It’s always hard to get him to transition back to his own bed by the time school starts.
While my 8 year old will have a set bed time each evening, I’ll allow the two teens to take responsibility and go to bed and get up on their own. This has never been an issue for my daughter, but when I tried this with my son last year, he could not get out of bed. Even when we woke him up, he fell right back to sleep. Now that he is a freshman in High School, he will need to learn how to go to bed at a time in which he gets enough sleep, and can roll out of bed in the morning.
I have also warned my teens, that if at anytime their grades are at C, I will be on them daily until it’s at a B or better. If they should have a D, they will lose their phone and be put on a bedtime schedule. The great thing about our schools, is that I can get on an app and check their grades everyday.
Another issue we had in the past, was the kids getting the normal school lunch, then buying a bunch of extra junk and charging it to their accounts as if they have their own personal credit card for food. It’s always good to be able to monitor this situation online.
On this week prior to school beginning again, we will drop off school supplies and meet the 3rd grade teacher. Freshman orientation, pictures and class schedule will occur, while my sophomore will get her schedule, take pics and try to get a parking spot for the upcoming year.
I will be happy about getting back into some sort of a routine again.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa, MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com. You can check out Herb's own blog at www.thecodylife.weebly.com .
Shawn Askinosie knows about heartbreak. When he was 12, his father was diagnosed with lung cancer. At 13, he learned to give his father the injections of Demerol required for pain management. When he was 14, his father died.
During the period of his father’s declining health, the leader of a well-meaning prayer group suggested there should be “no talk about death.” To do so, the leader said, indicated a lack of faith in their prayers for healing. After his father died, Shawn said he spent the next 25 years overcoming every obstacle in his path and accomplishing every goal presented to him as a means of dealing with his untreated adolescent grief.
The conclusion of a successful murder trial where Shawn served as the defense attorney, eventually led to a personal recognition of an “out of balance life.” The book Tuesdays with Morrie was also a big influence during this period. What occurred next is what Shawn refers to as a “time of physical and emotional reawakening.” Five years after the trial’s conclusion, he found himself choosing an entirely new life associated with chocolate. He also reports coming to see heartbreak, including his own, as a necessary ingredient to a full life.
“If you love,” he explains, “you will know the grief and sorrow of loss.”
Today Shawn is the CEO of Askinosie Chocolate, a small batch, award winning chocolate factory in Springfield, Missouri. Askinosie Chocolate has been named “One of the 25 Best Small Companies in America” by Forbes and featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, on Bloomberg, MSNBC and various other national and international media outlets. Shawn also serves on the board of Lost & Found Grief Center of Southwest Missouri, an organization he helped start to assist children in dealing with grief and loss.
Today Shawn sees heartbreak as a necessity for a full life. If this is so, then how does a thoughtful parent handle this tender topic? Shawn offers these considerations:
1. Avoid trying to inoculate or prevent all heartbreak for your child. Loss and grief are inevitable. Offer support and empathy, but try not to prevent or rescue.
2. Model healthy grieving. Allow your child to see what brings you great joy and deep sadness. A child who sees healthy grieving modeled by a loving parent learns to handle loss.
3. Help kids learn that broken hearts are meant to be tended, not fixed. Embracing a loss, versus avoiding or denying, helps children grow in compassion.
There was a time when Shawn Askinosie was a fearsome trial attorney. These days he speaks in a different voice, emphasizing and encouraging language of hope and compassion for our children and others.
by Dr. Jennifer Baker
This article was written by Dr. Jennifer Baker, Founder and Executive Director of Good Dads, following a podcast with Shawn. To hear the full interview, download part 1 and part 2 of his Good Dads podcast.
For those of you fathers out there who drive the kids to school each day, here is an old blog post of mine that you may relate to as we're getting back into the swing of things with the start of school right around the corner...
For about the past month, whenever that alarm screams at me to rise, I've been a complete zombie. I literally get out of bed, slip on some sandals, yell "load up" and take the kids to school. This is a complete gamble on my part, because the kids are usually not ready at all. I've had to turn around several times to retrieve items like backpacks, socks, Chromebooks and lunch. Since about May 23rd, I've been shuttling the kids to school in the same outfit I roll out of bed in, which is my boxer shorts and a t-shirt. One morning last week, the boys were upset because they didn't have time to eat breakfast. I thought I would be the good Dad, and swing by the convenience store to grab them donuts on the way to school.
I dropped my daughter off at school first, then pulled into the Casey's General Store parking lot. My youngest asked, "Dad what are you doing?" I explained that I was gonna grab breakfast for them. I pulled into a spot up front, opened my car door and slowly got out. I could hear some giggling from the boys in the back seat. I figured they were playing one of the silly games they seem to wanna play way too early in the morning. I shut the door and walked into the store. I looked towards the case filled with sugary treats, and suddenly realized......oh no.....I had forgotten my glasses at home. I had gotten out of bed and failed to put them on. What an idiot!!! I'm standing there squinting, trying to figure out which delicious delights I would treat my children to, when I heard a strange voice behind me. "Did you lose your pants?" a man asked. I looked behind me to see who he was talking to and what moron was walking around without pants. As I turned towards the strange voice, I happened to look down. Oh no.....holy sh!@t!!! I was the imbecile the voice was talking to. I had completely forgotten I strolled out of the house in my undies. I've gotta believe, if my daughter were still in the car, she would not have let me exit the vehicle. My boys on the other hand, they could care less. They just thought it was Dad's newest attempt at humor
There I am in my old, red, Adidas t-shirt, and my bright blue, striped, boxer shorts. I have a few pair that have the button on the front to keep the barn door shut. This particular pair of "Fruit of the Loom's" did not have the button. I was one awkward movement from letting the turtle poke its head out of its shell. For all I know, it had already gotten a peek. I did not say a word to the man, or anyone else, I just turned and walked out as quickly as I could. I got back into the car where my youngest was quick to point out that he wasn't the only forgetful one.
A week or so earlier, I was rushing to get the boys to their games. My 6-year-old had gotten dressed, got into the car, and rode all the way to the fields before realizing he had no shoes on. Obviously, I was frustrated that I had to go back home to get his shoes. He had remembered this, and was letting me know about it.
Needless to say, I've made sure to get myself properly dressed in the morning since.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St. Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa, MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can check out Herb's own blog at www.thecodylife.weebly.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 email@example.com.
“Hey, my wife and I are in town and we wondered if we might get together. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you.”
This is the request my Main Man made of one of his cousins several years ago. Close in age, the two of them spent many weekends in each other’s company, along with another sibling. The city-based cousins made regular trips to the country to visit my husband’s family and their grandparents. The boys lived for the times they could create homegrown, country-living adventures together. They had tales to tell about forts built in the barn, base camps created at the river, softball games in the field, and frustrated adults who wanted them to calm down and “stop messing around.” My Main Man enjoyed recalling the fun and carefree times they all spent together in their childhood and adolescence.
Perhaps that’s why he was so surprised when his cousin answered, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Confused, he asked about “just coffee” or meeting at a restaurant. The answer was still “No.” Jokingly my husband asked, “This doesn’t have anything to do with the way (cousin’s name) and I used to tease you, does it?”
“Yeah,” he said, “maybe it does.” And then there was a long silence.
What does one say in the face of an acknowledged grievance decades in length? How does one respond to a hurt which appears to have festered for a very long time?
My Main Man did apologize, but it appeared insufficient to soothe the grudging unhappiness settled in the soul of his cousin for nearly four decades. Sadly, we were unable to ever connect. You simply can’t make someone meet if they don’t want to get together.
There are many reasons dads may want to become more aware of grudges in their own lives. Here are just a few to consider:
Holding on to a grudge damages your health. According to researchers from the Stanford Forgiveness Project, carrying a grudge puts our immune and cardiovascular systems at risk. If we are committed to taking good care of our health, then taking an inventory of possible grudges and considering how to release them is a critical step.
Holding onto a grudge is allowing someone else to live rent free in your head. A lot of mental energy is invested in holding on to something that has mastered you, versus you having power over it. Dr. Frederic Luskin, founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, calls it an “ineffective strategy for dealing with a life situation that you haven’t been able to master.”
It’s sets a very poor example for one’s children. Children are far more perceptive than we give them credit. They may hear us say they should forgive each other and express regret for their actions, but if they never see us do it, it’s unlikely they will do what we ask. Moreover, if they see us exhibit long-term bitterness, anger and resentment toward a former friend or family member, they’ll typically see this as acceptable behavior into adulthood.
Want to let go of the past? Want to let hurtful things have less power over your day-to-day life? Desire to set a better standard for your children? Check back next week for some specific ways to let go of harmful grudges and move toward a more health-filled future.
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.
If you ask for parental opinions on traveling with children, stand back and prepare yourself for responses of the very strong and greatly varied nature. While my wife and I were all for packing up the whole gang and hitting the road, or sky, or sea, we completely understood how daunting the thought of it all could be.
A simple Google search will yield ample articles and research-based studies, singing the praises of traveling with one’s young. Seeing the world, or even other parts of a home state, give opportunities for families to bond, as well as experiences children can learn and grow from. What the articles and research state are rarely opposed by parents, because as most know travel is, in its purest form, a wonderful thing. Parents aren’t put off by giving their kids experiences, but rather by the paying for, planning, and pulling off of the experiences. Whether approaching travel when our kids were babies, or now as we travel with our kids and their babies, three things have been and still remain non-negotiables for consideration.
First, parents have to count the cost. Keeping up with the Joneses has always been a thing. However, in this age of social media, it’s an extremely amplified thing. Constant bombardment via Facebook posts and Instagram pics of seemingly perfect vacations with perfect families enjoying them can be dishearteningly overwhelming to most of us in the parental population. No matter how staged we have come to understand many images in our society to be, the sting of not being able to give our kids extravagant trips can get to us. However, very early on, my wife and I learned that it’s not always about where a family travels, it’s about the family just simply traveling . . . together. In 30 years of parenting, we have taken everything from “eating sandwiches out of the back of the minivan on the way to the campsite” to “flying across the country and staying at hotels with cool indoor pool” trips. Not even getting much time in this blog, are the “staycations” we have enjoyed, and we truly did enjoy them. Don’t feel the need to overspend or go in debt to give your kids travel memories. If you are stressed about the finances, chances are no one will have a great time. Definitely make travel experiences a goal, but also make sure you do your homework in selecting the right kind of trip for both your family and your family’s financial seasons.
Planning: The second thing we always have considered when planning family travel is thorough planning. When I say “planning,” I don’t mean strict, regimenting schedules where the parents have to play the roles of “wagon masters.” If you have had kids for more than a minute, you know flexibility is something you have to leave room for. But, doing your trip homework paves the way for smoother travel times. Don’t roll your eyes at travel guides, especially those created with kids in mind. Of course, the internet is ripe with all sorts of resources, and your local bookstore or library is, as well. We leverage websites and travel blogs, but we also enjoy getting our hands on a good old paper version of a Birnbaum guide. As your planning, don’t forget to include your kids in the process, you might be surprised how the excitement and bonding can begin long before your trip does. In fact, there have been so many times our kids have told us, “planning the trip and anticipating its arrival was as fun as the trip itself.”
Execution: Finally, when it comes to pulling the whole thing off, well, if you’ve figured out to pay for it, and you’ve thoroughly planned for it, execution should be the fun part. If you’re not worrying about the money, or having arguments in the car about where to go next because you’ve got a solid plan, you have eliminated a majority of the typical trip stressors. So, limit your phone usage, which goes for parents, as well as kids, and purpose to be 100% in the moments you have so eagerly anticipated . . . together.
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
Back in 2012, my wife and I made the decision to take our three children, then 9, 8 and 1, to Disney World in Orlando FL. What a fun vacation and lots of memories for the kids, we thought. We stayed for a week, and got some time at the Ocean, took in a Rays baseball game, got on a pirate ship and did several other fun things besides Disney.
Seven years later, I decided to ask the kids what they loved most about that trip. I knew our youngest would have no memory, which he did not. I asked my son Alex, “what was your favorite memory from our trip to Disney World?” His response, “which one?” I explained that there was only one. He then said he didn’t remember any of it, but loved the water park at Six Flags—St Louis.
I asked my daughter who was 9 at the time, now almost 16, the same question. She also said she could not remember the trip. So I spent over $5k so we could spend a week in hellish heat and humidity, when I could have just taken them to Six Flags or Silver Dollar City.
Over the years we have taken several weekend road trips to the lake, Branson, St. Louis or KC. For whatever reason, my oldest son gets car sick more times than not. The first few times, we dealt with unexpected and sudden projectile vomiting in the back seat. Since then, we made sure we were fully prepared.
Last December, we took a week-long trip to Las Vegas. I knew the Christmas lights would be something to see, and there were lots of fun things for the kids to do. Now that the children were 7, 13 and 15, it made the trip a whole lot less stressful and more enjoyable. The only real issue was what to eat. My youngest is very picky, and doesn’t like change. While we tried a few different establishments, I always ended up having to find him some McDonald’s or a Subway. Buffets are always the best option, because each of them can always find something they like, or at least get full trying everything they don’t like.
I would have to say that “vacationing” with multiple children under the age of 10, is not a vacation at all. If I had to do it over again, I’d keep the trips local and within a few hours driving distance, until at least two of them were over 10 years of age.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com
She didn’t exactly whack the back of my head when she lifted the lid on the overhead compartment in the plane, but she did hit it.
“Watch your head,” she said matter-of-factly, after she hit me.
Since I was removing my jacket from the overhead compartment on my side of the aisle at the time, I hadn’t expected to be hit.
“I didn’t know I needed to watch,” I said.
“These things are so poorly design” she responded, and then gathered her belonging and hurried out of the aircraft.
Everyone on the plane seemed a bit tired of sitting knee-to-knee on a small regional jet, but I was a bit taken aback by her response to banging my head. Her behavior made me think of a book I finished recently, Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). Carol Tavris and Eliot Aronson assert how little we know about how we are experienced by others and how difficult it is for us to learn.
For instance, I doubt that the woman in the plane would want to be perceived as rude or ill-mannered. My guess is that in her hurry to get off the plane she raised the compartment lid too quickly and unintentionally hit me in the process. Given her response, it’s likely she was embarrassed.
She might have apologized or inquired about my well-being, but that would have been an admission, of sorts, of her part in the head hitting. Instead, she issued a belated warning to me and then commented on the design flaw of the airplane. While I was a bit surprised, Tavris and Aronson suggest this tendency is very common and not all that surprising. If we dislike certain kinds of behavior and then find ourselves engaging in those same actions, we have to find a way to excuse what we’ve done. In social psychology circles, this is known as self-justification or the self-serving bias.
When someone engages in self-justification, it can sound as if they’re lying, but there is a difference. Tavris and Aronson (2007) suggest that self-justification is “more powerful and more dangerous” because “it allows people to convince themselves that what they did was the best thing they could have done” (p.4) at the time. I wonder how many acts we see described in the nightly news would fall into the category of self-justification.
Tavris and Aronson describe cognitive dissonance as the “engine that drives self-justification” (p. 13). Cognitive dissonance occurs when we have two thoughts or perspectives that are psychologically inconsistent (e.g., “Punctuality is important;” and “I’m late again.”) When this happens, it is so uncomfortable we often seek to rationalize our behavior.
Instead of: “I’m sorry I was late. I should have left earlier,” we say, “That traffic was terrible. They really need to do something about the streets.
Instead of: “I over-reacted. I’m sorry I got so angry,” we say, “If you had just explained what you wanted with more detail, I would have been fine.”
Mistakes Were Made caused me to think about a lot of things. I wondered how often I really worked to understand a perspective other than my own. I pondered how others might experience what I see as my own perfectly logical behavior. I considered a very human tendency to give myself a pass on less than favorable behavior, while nailing the same flaw in others. It’s not comfortable thinking, but if I want to avoid the justification of foolish beliefs, bad decisions and hurtful acts, I probably need to do more of it.
Mistakenly yours, more often than I would like to admit,
Jennifer L. Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Executive Director of GOOD DADS. You can reach her at email@example.com
Some years ago, back when my joints didn’t crack when I dragged myself off the couch, I was father to four little girls. The last two are twins and there’s just a bit more than three years separating all of them.
Each night, after supper, and after their baths, I’d lay on the rug in the living room and they’d jump all over me. I’d roll this way and that and growl like a bear and they’d laugh until they couldn’t catch their breath. They smelled of baby shampoo and talcum power.
Later, I’d sit on the couch and the four of them would sit on my lap. I’d smell their clean hair and read to them from Danny and the Dinosaur and Sammy the Seal, both by Syd Hoff, and perhaps the best books ever written for little kids. I’d change the stories a bit each night and they’d shout to correct me, “No, no, no! That’s not the way it goes.” And I’d tell them that those are the words in the book and that I wasn’t changing a thing, and in this way, the four of them wanted to learn how to read. To keep me honest.
I traveled to New York for the manufacturer’s rep in those days and when I came home late and they wondered what happened I would ask them if they hadn’t seen it on the news. “What Daddy?”
“You know that big tennis stadium that we pass in Brooklyn when we drive sometimes? The one that glows like a big balloon because they puff it up with air?” They nodded. “Well, there’s a plumbing supply house right next door to that place, and today one of the men drove his forklift into the big balloon. It was an accident, of course, but the balloon took off into the air and flew all over the sky. It landed across the highway and that’s why the traffic was backed up. And That’s why I’m late.”
“were the people still inside the balloon, Daddy?”
“Yes, and they were all wearing white shorts.”
They looked at me and at each other, and one would say, “That’s not true!” and I would look hurt. Another would ask, “Is it true?”
“Of course it is. Don’t you watch the news on the TV?” And in this way they became interested in current events. Can’t be too careful with those big tennis balloons.
They grew and they all went to school together and I would drive them there whenever I could. One day in early spring I had them look at the buds on the trees as we drove and I told them that it’s important for them to pay close attention to those buds because Lime Day was coming. I just cast it back there into the minivan and waited for one of them to bite.
“What’s Lime Day, Daddy?”
“What’s Lime Day? Are you serious?”
They looked at each other, each not wanting to be the only one not knowing, and once they agreed that it was safe to continue, one said, “We don’t know what that is?”
So I laughed and explained to them that Lime Day is a National holiday. It comes around once a year on the day when all the buds on all the trees are that absolutely perfect shade of lime. “It helps if it’s misting a bit on that day because a bit of mist makes lime even prettier.”
“What day is Lime Day, Daddy?”
“That’s the best part,” I explained. “Every kid gets to call Lime Day. You have to watch the trees very carefully, and you have to decide for yourself that it would be impossible for the leaves to be any more limey than they are right now. Then you call it and that’s it. Lime Day. The next day, the leaves are just boring green and they’ll stay that way all summer long.”
“But what if you call Lime Day and the next day is limier?”
“Well, then your sister wins and that makes you a loser,” I explained.
They looked at each other and said, “There’s no such day.”
“Of course there is,” I said, and as spring crept closer and closer to us that year, I convinced them that Lime Day was as real as the Fourth of July.
Now here comes the best part: As the weeks went by, they each went to their classes and told the other kids about Lime Day. The other kids told my kids that they were full of crap, of course, but in their hearts, those other kids wanted there to be such a day because it’s just the best thing going, so they went home and asked their parents. The kids explained Lime Day and the magnificent parents all lied right along with me. Wouldn’t you?
They came to see the beauty of nature in the paved-over, suburban world of Long Island and they carried it with them. In all the many years that have gone by since then, each of my daughters call in Lime Day each spring, no matter where she is in the world. I live for those calls.They came to see the beauty of nature in the paved-over, suburban world of Long Island and they carried it with them. In all the many years that have gone by since then, each of my daughters call in Lime Day each spring, no matter where she is in the world. I live for those calls.
Dan Holohan is a father of four. This blog was used with permission from a larger post by Dan Holohan, at Heatinghelp.com. To read the post in its entirety, please go to: https://heatinghelp.com/blog/sully/