They are at the park … the grocery store … even at school drop-off. Dads! They are everywhere today. Leave it to Beaver is over, Daddy has arrived and he’s ready to participate in parenting today.
While many have asked for help over the years some moms aren’t quite ready for “daddy’s way” of doing things. So instead of a list of gift ideas for Father’s Day, we welcome an active and enthusiastic dad to offer tips on how parents can create a plan and work together to build a more cohesive and positive home environment where everyone can thrive – together!
Aaron Schiller is a youth counselor and sports coach who has worked with kids of all ages to overcome personal challenges that they face in their life. He is passionate about helping young people to feel whole and capable of achieving whatever they want. His mission is to help families connect more deeply and to allow their love for one another to flow more freely in and out of the home. Aaron is a father of two and husband to an entrepreneurial wife whom shares the same philosophy (see The Art Pantry).
How does being a dad today differ from what you experienced as a child?
In general the world has changed a lot since I was a kid. I think dads in the past did not change nearly as many diapers as they do today and you would be hard pressed to find a dad with a baby strapped to his chest and pushing the second kid in a stroller. Dads simply just want to be more involved in parenting. It seems to me that there are many dads these days that are either “stay at home” dads, or aspire to be “stay at home” dads, while their wives are the primary earners. I don’t think men in the past could have handled that. There was so much pride/self image for men attached to being the provider.
I am so grateful that my father taught me how to be really present with kids. While he worked 7 days a week taking care of his patients he always loved playing with me. I never got the sense he would rather be doing something else. His way of being with me has greatly affected how I am with all kids including my own. I would say the biggest difference for me, today, as a Father is my willingness to dive into the harder parts of growing up. I want to have fun with my daughters, but I also want to be there for them to work through the millions of emotions, challenges, and hardships that go with being a kid. I am not looking to just have fun. I am striving to guide my children so that they are prepared for the day & days ahead.
For dads ready to participate in the daily routine, how do you suggest they take on more responsibility?
This is a great question. I think it depends on the situation. For many dads they have the core things they do, like making breakfast before they head off to work, coaching a sports team, or getting kids ready for bed. The core activities lie in the comfort zone for dads. They know how to do these things and they feel comfortable doing them.In order for dads to get more involved they may need to get outside of their comfort zone and potentially get a little training/orientation from their partners. For dads with babies, a great example is learning to swaddle, give baths and (at a minimum) change diapers.
A great example that comes up for me is when my daughter finally had long, beautiful hair. I was terrified of washing and brushing her hair. It kept me from being a part of the bath time routine. I felt incompetent so I stayed away. When my wife was going out of town she gave me a little training on what to do and how our daughter likes it all to be done. So I jumped in and it went fine! My little girl and I got her hair washed and every one of the 10,000 knots got brushed out. I felt like a much more competent father and my daughter saw that I could keep doing more in our relationship as her parent. The line between “what mom does” and what I do began to blur.
Discipline – what can dads do to help set the rules and establish a team approach with parenting?
Any time I get involved in a discussion around discipline I want to make sure we get back to basics and remember that it’s all about teaching, not punitive punishment. I think dads tend to fall back on their status in society as the enforcers. I generally think this leads to parenting through fear. It often keeps moms hoping this tactic works, but also feeling bad for their kids and often themselves for witnessing such explosive behavior from a parent. If the couple wants to be more of a team and approach discipline as a shared responsibility, I have some recommendations below. And remember, our kids are generally not doing this just to add to our stress or to upset us. They are just being kids within the system that is our homes and their lives.
Sounds simple enough, but it is one of the hardest things for hard-working, fast-paced humans to do. It takes practice to be able to do it when you need to. If you want to see the research on this check out MBSR. You may want to check out the Headspace app if you are interested in expanding your ability to become present. Or just take a couple of minutes a day to calm your mind and connect with the present moment. My teacher once told me, “The best thing about birds is that they only sing in the present moment.” – so try and listen to them!
This is the game-plan that you create based on the specific behaviors you are working to modify or adapt to. This is the opportunity for parents to work together before the time comes to discipline their children.
This includes having some pre-set consequences so you don’t have to come up with them on the spot. Ideally your child comes up with them with you. That way you don’t have to surprise them with a consequence. You can calmly say from your very present state of being: “I feel really sad about this, but we agreed that if you did ___ then ___ would happen.” Remember discipline is about teaching, not about punitive punishments designed to torture or make kids feel bad.
Have a planned scaled response. Don’t treat severe behaviors and mild ones the same. There is a big difference between dropping a cup on the floor by accident and breaking a window.
Nobody loves your kids like you love them. For some reason, when they act out and overwhelm us we hit a breaking point and that love gets hidden away.
In my experience, 9 out of 10 times children act out there is something going on for them – hunger, fatigue, sadness, depression, anxiety, self loathing, embarrassment at school – something has set them off. Even if we can’t give them a hug when they are in this place (my 3 year old kicks and pushes me away), we can still hold love and empathy in our hearts (even when handing out a planned consequence).
Being able to truly understand how your child is feeling even when they are being nasty is the gateway to really being there for them in a deeper and more powerful way.
Remember a key piece of empathy is to truly know from your own experience what the other person is feeling. Do you remember a time when you got in trouble as a kid?
There is some myth out there that we should not show or tell our children how we feel about the things they do. I believe it is not only okay, but necessary to let them know that what they did made you sad, angry, frustrated, etc. It allows them to see you as a real human being with feelings and emotions. If you tell them how you feel they may just learn to tell you how they feel. Modeling is everything.
Uh, oh – mom doesn’t like to do things this way. How can dads establish themselves as an equal parent without mom feeling undermined?
I think the key word in this question is equal. If moms and dad want equal parenting, then things can’t always be just what one person wants or believes. There will need to be trade-offs or compromise. In my home where I am an equal parent, I have a little more lenience around sweets. My kids are always telling their mom “dad let us have…(insert ice cream, candy or cookies).” What is really sweet is that my wife always responds with a big playful smile and says “Daaaddddyyy” and we all have a big laugh. If my wife feels like I went overboard, she waits till we have a moment alone and we have a discussion about it. She never just calls me out in front of the kids. Undermining your partner can be really counterproductive towards building an equal parenting environment. So for moms, the hardest part is letting some things play out and allowing concerns to be expressed in a more private moment. And for dads it is about being able to take some feedback without making it a big deal or feeling threatened. Conversely dads need to be able to give feedback to moms as well. Now we are talking equal parenting!!!
Fostering an emotional bond with your child. What activities, conversations or tips can you provide to give dads a game plan for parenting?
This is a really sweet question. This is the area I think dads are going to continue to evolve in most over the next couple of decades. For centuries moms were the emotional foundation of a home. Now more and more dads are providing comfort, support, and understanding to their children. Ideally this process starts at birth. For dads who spent sleepless nights staring into their baby’s endless eyes they have an advantage here. But if that was not you as a dad there is still hope! It begins with being genuinely concerned for the emotional well being of your child. Not just being interested in having fun for a few minutes.
So how does a dad go about doing that?
Never shy away from your kids when they are crying. Even if they push you away for their mother keep moving towards them and not away. The day will come when they want you, it may just take some time. Don’t give up or let them see you give up. Say in a soft voice, “Okay, I will get your mother.” Or “I am here for you if you want, and I will get your mother.”
After the tears have dried up be willing to sit quietly with them, maybe read a book. Try not to let this just be mom’s domain. If your child wants their mother than you can all sit together.
After school ask questions about their time on the playground vs. just about academics. Ask them whom they played with, if there were any times they felt sad at school. I ask my daughter this regularly and it has led to some amazing discussions and insights into how hard it is for our kids to navigate the social realm at school. They will appreciate having the support from their dad.
This may sound cheesy but give sweet motivational talks. Bring out your best John Wooden quotes or quotes from your favorite books or poems. It is a positive way to build a relationship around what we are capable of as human beings.
What’s Your Idea for the perfect Father’s Day?
It all starts with sleeping in till at least 8:30/9 (I know, really going for it). I am generally on the morning shift so a day off is really welcomed. As I am waking up, the girls jump into bed with some homemade gifts and sweet smiles. I am not much for crowded breakfast places on days like Father’s day so we just make a fun breakfast at home. Or maybe a picnic in the park! Then we mill around the house and I sneak off for a round of 9 holes with a couple other dads in the neighborhood. It is becoming sort of a tradition now. Later that day we make a fun dinner and get the kids to sleep. If I am lucky, Father’s day ends with some special appreciation from my wife. What can I say, I am a simple guy. I don’t really need fancy gifts but it sure does feel good to be appreciated!
How are you celebrating Dad this year? Share with Chipper on Facebook or in the comments below! We welcome and appreciate your feedback and ideas.