Do you remember the day your life was turned upside down? The day that gorgeous, noisy bundle of needs and demands came into your life; the day you became a dad.
So many things change when you become a ‘family’. However you look at it, things are never quite the same again, irrespective of who does the majority of the parenting, you no longer just have yourselves to think about.
Apart from the obvious; nappies, feeding, disturbed nights, buggies, slings and baby grows, becoming a threesome can put a strain on your relationship. Being hell bent on continuing to live ‘life as usual’ means we miss out on the countless opportunities that our children provide us with to grow, discover and learn.
So how can you be the dad you’d like to be? What will impact whether you're able to spend time with your children and help raise responsible, balanced and spirited individuals? Spending time with them, appreciating them for what they do well, providing boundaries and being a role model are probably of the four key factors.
There has been so much touted about ‘quality time’, but what does it actually mean and is it really important? When we spend time with our kids, focusing on them, listening to them, without being distracted by the telephone or other adults or stuff that ‘needs doing’, they get the message that they are important to us. This raises their self esteem, which in turn creates happier more cooperative children. It doesn’t have to be hours at a time, even 20 minutes of your undivided attention can work miracles!
Children thrive on clarity and knowing where the boundaries are. They want to know that they are safely ‘held’ so they can explore the world knowing there is a safety net to catch them when they need it. Most children would rather hear a clear “No”, than a “Maybe” or a “We’ll see”. Why do we sometimes communicate unclear messages rather than clear ones? It’s worth spending a few moments working out what you are willing and able to do before responding to their requests.
Choose your battles carefully before you respond with an immovable comment. Use “No” sparingly and when you say it, mean it. Often there are alternatives to the word 'No' that come across in a more accepting way. Phrases such as 'How about...' or 'What if we were to ...' provide more space for some choice to be made and encourages a sense of inclusion in place of separation.
It can help to appreciate when a child has behaved in a supportive and helpful manner. Rather than constantly telling them what not to do and getting at them for what they are doing wrong, try experimenting with appreciating them every time they cooperate and do something well. Fundamentally, most children want to please and the more you point out when they’re doing well, the better it gets (honestly have a go!).
Finally, and probably most importantly, the most effective way to encourage appropriate behaviour in our kids is to show them how by modelling it yourself. They are much more likely to do what we do, than do what we say. This is probably one of the hardest aspects of being a parent! Above all, have fun, allow that childlike part of you to come out and play; they’ll be grown up before you know it. Parenting doesn't have to be an ongoing tug of war!