The other day my wife and I overheard a conversation between two young moms regarding preschool. We were amused by the fact it sounded more like an exchange comparing the virtues of Harvard and Yale, than it did one contrasting the arts and craft time at two early childhood programs—ones, I might add, which are held in church basements.
We were amused because we so vividly remember painstakingly mulling over such things, especially in our early years of parenting. You would be hard-pressed to find a parent who does not wish to see his or her child succeed. I am not talking primal parental competitions, such as “my kid has to crawl before your kid.” I am talking about the sincere desire to simply see children find their way in school and life by a competent, confident and complete means.
Research regarding achieving success has been done to death. There are books, seminars, conferences, and TedTalks from which we can gather information on helping our kids make it in both school and life. While many of these things are indeed helpful, we have to keep in mind that each one of our children is unique, just as each of his or her parents.
Like most parents, I wanted my boys to succeed. I want them to find their passions and fan them into flame. In theory, that sounds lovely. In reality, it is tough. Fortunately, I can share a few things from my hits and misses, which I hope will encourage and challenge you in efforts to support your own children in achieving success, not only in their schooling, but also in life!
Time. I know, I know. The experts are always telling us dads to spend more time with our kids. But, in order to clearly see the talents and desires in our children’s hearts, we have to spend time with them. There are no shortcuts to this one.
Discernment. How much money have therapists made off of adult children bemoaning jobs and lives they feel trapped in because it was what “my father wanted?” Use wisdom in discerning if what you are encouraging your child to do is what he or she wants to do or is gifted to do…or what you want him or her to do.
Tools. It’s virtually impossible in both time and money for the majority of dads to spend large amounts of these resources on a myriad of interests and activities, but there are hints to guide us. If you start to notice your little football/baseball/soccer/tennis player whines about going to all of his or her practices, except for tennis you might want to cut back and focus on giving him or her all of the tools you can in that one area. I’m not suggesting your children not try various things, or not be well rounded. Just consider scaling back on doing a little in a lot of things, and instead do a lot in one or two.
Sidelines & Bleachers. This really could be called “Discernment Part II.” Above all else, know when to be a sideline supporter and when to be a bleacher supporter. Sometimes, our kids need us right beside them, cheering and jumping up and down. But sometimes, especially as they get older and make more of their own choices, they need us to sit up in the stands of life, quietly giving our support. We need to let them know we are there when they need us, but let them shine on their own.
I think of those preschool moms holding hands with their children just entering the stadiums of school and life. I think of myself in an airport traveling home from briefly visiting a grown son and his wife. Now is the time when I sit in the bleachers, at times wanting to shout out what he should do, but remembering it’s his time to carry the ball. I have to trust that the time I spent with him, the discernment I tried to use, and the tools I put in his toolbox, have given him all the support he will need, no matter where I stand or sit in his life. I think that’s a big part of being a “Good Dad.”