As a parenting author, I’ve seen hundreds of parenting books and read countless articles. Often, they are echoing the same principles. I’m not knocking it… I’ve written numerous articles about the biggies that parents often neglect, like spending more time with your kids.
But here are 5 tips you don’t find being taught in the parenting circuit very often.
1. Wanna be a good dad? Then be a good husband first.
Want your kids to feel safe, loved and valued? Then work on your marriage. It’s true on so many levels. We’re seeing more research emerging about one of the best predictors of cognitive success being emotional stability of the home environment. Bioengineering expert Dr. John Medina said it like this, “Do you want to know how to get your kid into Harvard? Go home and love your wife.”
It’s this simple. When our kids are young, they are searching for clues in their home to see if they are safe. “Children look to their parents and the relationship they have with each other to assess whether that’s true or not,” Medina says. “If indeed there is an assessment of stability, the brain works in one way, but if there is an assessment of instability, the brain starts working in another way and starts doing other types of things.”
2. No Rules by 17½
Most people would agree toddlers need a lot of guidance. If your 2-year-old starts heading for the road when a semi-truck is coming… not many dads would say, “Leave him be. He’ll learn!” At the opposite end of the spectrum, everyone knows when our teens turn 18, they can legally move out and do whatever they want. The tricky part for parents is that time in between. How much guidance and control do we assert, especially in those teenage years?
The answer is “a segue.” Start with heavy guidance and slowly segue towards less control, with a goal of “no rules by 17½. Sure, you could wait until 18… but why? Why not have them totally free while still under the safety of your shadow?
I tried this principle with my oldest daughter, starting with realistic guardrails, then giving more trust over the years, and eventually parenting our 17-year-old like an 18-year-old. She is 18-years-old and on her own now… and it’s really no big deal. She’s been making decisions for a while now.
3. Daddy Time
Last time I was over at my brother’s house, his 7-year-old son Aidan kept bragging about “guy night.” He held up a movie, “Dad, can we watch this one on our ‘guy night’ this week?” One night a week my brother and Aidan spend a couple hours hanging out in the 5th wheel in their driveway watching a movie, eating fun snacks and just being guys. It seemed to be the highlight of Aidan’s week.
Can your kids brag about regular ‘Daddy time’?
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Breakfast, kayaking, French fries after school, watching The Walking Dead… are you putting in the quantity time that opens the door to those quality time moments? Or do your kids have to coax you to spend time with them?
4. Real Life Reality Shows
Parents are always looking for teaching moments. When real life hardships appear, don’t be scared to talk about what you experienced. If your sister is getting a divorce, ask your teenagers what they think. What can they learn from the situation?
Real life isn’t always a huge crisis. Yesterday I was driving down the road and came upon a lady trying to back her boat into a driveway… and it became quickly and painfully obvious she didn’t know how to back a trailer. Cars began lining up and honking. I pulled over, walked over to her with a smile and asked, “Would you like some help?” She happily got out of the car and let me take a crack at it. Moments like these are fun to dialogue about with your kids. Don’t lecture, just ask questions: “Why do you think people were so upset with her?” “How should people respond when they see someone struggling like that?” “What are ways we can show love to people in stressful situations?” “How could you help someone in need?”
Look for these real life discussion moments, or even watch entertainment together that springboards discussion about real life.
One of my fondest memories as a kid was getting picked up from school on a cold winter Friday afternoon only to find the car packed with luggage. “We’re going somewhere fun for the weekend,” my dad chimed in as we crawled into the loaded car.
We didn’t have a lot of money back then and staying at a hotel was a real treat. My parents drove us an hour or two out of town to a small hotel with an indoor pool. My brother and I thought it was pure paradise.
When is the last time you surprised your kids with something fun that they wanted to do?
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