Dads can do anything!

Dads can do anything!

HEY DAD! What’s more important than your little girl or little boy? Answer: Nothing!
So what’s the best thing a too-busy father can do? Answer: Sacrifice a few things so he can be at home more often. You can do it!

(nine qualities kids need in a father)

It’s tough being a father. Ultra tough. Let’s face it: few assignments are as dangerous, expensive or painful. And the question needs to be asked: why on earth do we do it? 

It wouldn’t be so bad if we were SUPERMEN … but we’re not! 

We can’t move mountains, leap tall buildings or fly like eagles. And most of us haven’t even got capes. But we’re still expected to be everywhere, see everything, move with the speed of a bullet, and (at times) walk on water!

Do we get any thanks? NO! Are our kids grateful when we make them do their homework? NO! Do they hug us when we stop them riding bikes through the lounge? NO! 

But we’re still expected to do it.

And guess what? We’re not allowed to do it when we’re at our best. Oh no, that would be too easy. When we’re feeling fresh and invincible, the world wants us at work – not at home. We’re expected to do our fathering in the mad rush of the morning … at the pooped end of the day … or in the few leftover seconds we can grab on weekends between mowing the house, polishing the lawns and painting the family car.

Can dads do everything? No, of course they can’t. At least, not on this planet. But there are some basic things that even the most ordinary, unspectacular dads can aim at … a fistful of qualities that all kids need in a father …

kids need #1:
A DAD WHO’S A FRIEND

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s amazing how many dads rob their kids of that friendship. They’re so busy at work (notching up hours, solving problems, chasing deadlines) that they forget about the little guys back home who couldn’t care less about Dad’s job – they just want Dad!

Now, we’re not talking about being a friend like one of their peers – you’re their dad, not a schoolmate, and that comes with responsibilities! But it doesn’t stop you from developing a special, dads-only friendship.

So, come on fathers: when was the last time you gave your kids breakfast in bed? Or challenged them to an arm-wrestle? Or kidnapped them for an adventure at the park? Or brought them home a “guess-what-I’ve-got-for-you”?

Friends are made, they don’t just happen. And friends put each other first, even when they’re busy with other things. 

Get the message? Be a friend now, while your kids are young – when they’ll hungrily grab any attention they can get. If you wait until they’re teenagers, it becomes much more difficult.

HEY DAD! One of the best times to grow a friendship is when your small kids go to bed each night – those 10 or 15 minutes when they’ll play or giggle or sing or tickle or talk about anything rather than go to sleep! And with bigger kids, why not make an appointment once a month, just the two of you – for breakfast or lunch or a game or movie? Imagine: by the time they leave school they could’ve had 200 Dates-with-Dad! 

kids need #2:
A DAD WHO MAKES TIME

Kids need dads who are interruptible. But the blunt truth is, while some dads make the effort … other dads fall back on the classic excuses: “Not now!” … “I’m too busy!” … “Maybe later!” And when dads get their priorities wrong, they end up stealing time from their kids without even knowing it.

It doesn’t hurt to remember: all dads have exactly the same number of hours in every day. And if we want to, we can plan time for our kids – just like we plan time at the factory, office or job-site for our customers, clients or workmates.

One keen father turned this ‘PLAN’ idea into a neat little memory-prodder:
• ‘P’ means PREPARE with passion – “When I know I’m going to be with my kids, I try to focus, think ahead, be enthusiastic when I see them, and make the most of it.”
• ‘L’ means LIVE each moment to the full – “I remind myself that tonight will never happen again!”
• ‘A’ means ACT as if this hour spent with them will influence the rest of their lives – “because it will!”
• ‘N’ means NOW is the time to begin – “After all, now is the only time I have, so I want to make the most of it.”

HEY DAD! What’s more important than your little girl or little boy? Answer: Nothing! 

So what’s the best thing a too-busy father can do? Answer: Sacrifice a few things so he can be at home more often. You can do it!

kids need #3:
A DAD WHO’S WIDE AWAKE

What sort of an expert are you when it comes to your own kids? Do you know what makes them tick? How closely do you observe them, watch them? What kind of people are they growing up to be?
Here’s a 14-point checklist – see how you score:

  1. Who’s your child’s hero?

  2. What’s his most treasured belonging? His favourite book? His choice of where to spend a day?

  3. Who are her friends – and what sort of people are they?

  4. What nickname does he get at school?

  5. Does she tend to make decisions from her head or her heart?

  6. Is he affectionate? Does he show his feelings easily … or does he keep them to himself?

  7. What upsets her most? Embarrasses her most? Thrills her more than anything else?

  8. What are your child’s most obvious skills?

  9. Does he prefer to work alone … or work with other people?

  10. Does she perform best when she has clear and definite instructions … or does she prefer to figure it out for herself?

  11. Does he like doing things with his hands … or would he rather read and talk and think?

  12. What’s her favourite subject at school? What subject is lame?

  13. What one thing in life is he most enthusiastic about … and what one thing does he keep putting off?

  14. Who outside your family influences your child the most?


Like most humans, a dad has one mouth – but two ears! And when his kids need a shoulder to cry on – a place to mumble, whisper, get mad, or let it all out – he knows to button his lip and hear them without interrupting or correcting.

Says one daughter: “The thing I appreciate most about my dad is that he’ll always take the time to listen. I mean, even if he’s tired. He never makes fun of anything I say, and he always tries hard to understand me. There aren’t many dads like this. So guess what happens? My girlfriends come over and talk to him, too!”

HEY DAD! It doesn’t matter how much of a hot-shot you are at work … how important your title … how fat your salary … how flash your company car. If you’re a stranger to the little people who live at your place, you’re part of the problem! So please-please-please do something about it!

kids need #4:
A DAD WHO SAYS ‘YES’ MORE THAN ‘NO’

We can’t escape it: healthy discipline is something we owe our children. There’s nothing very cute about a kid who’s never been shown right from wrong – and if we don’t do the job, someone else is going to have to do it for us. 

But ‘discipline’ is different from ‘punishment’. Discipline means coaching and shaping and steering our kids so that they become sensible, responsible, caring human beings. And if we can provide that without overdoing the punishment, we’ll find the job much more enjoyable. 

There’s more to fathering than just saying “NO!” Listen to one family therapist: “I’m continually amazed by the number of parents I counsel with ‘problem’ kids who have few positive things to say about their son or daughter. They’ve focused on the negatives for so long, nagging and correcting, they can hardly see any good.”

Let’s be honest: saying “NO!” can get to be a habit. So check out these tips:

(a) Never say “No” when you can say “Yes” … When your four-year old says, “Can I play with your hammer, Daddy?” don’t automatically say, “No, leave my tools alone!” Sure, it’s going to take a bit more effort … and sure, you’ll have to keep an eye on him. But being allowed occasionally to try Daddy’s tools might do wonders for his little ego. (And cheer up: by the time he’s seven, you can expect him to put the hammer away himself!)

(b) Get rid of things that cause fights … Have as few rules as possible – so you’ve got fewer things to tell your kids off for. Put up a gate so your toddler can’t run onto the road. Shift your books to the top shelf and put their toys on the bottom. Keep your garage door shut. Agree on a car policy before your teenager takes it out. Whenever you can, don’t just stop your kids doing something that’s not okay – give them another way of doing it that is okay. 

(c) Don’t harp on and on … When you must correct or punish, be fair – and get it over and done with. We heard of one dad who taught his kids, “When we go to sleep tonight, we’re going to forget everything you’ve done wrong. Tomorrow will be a brand-new day.”

(d) Make sure they’re sure of their good points … Compliment them, affirm them, congratulate them as often as possible. Don’t be scared of overdoing it – you won’t spoil them. Successful kids have dads who are proud of them … and let them know it!

Families can’t live well together without some agreement on how things should be done. And good house rules – e.g. pulling your weight, taking your turn, cleaning up your own mess, letting others know where you are – are like stakes alongside plants in your garden. The stakes are there not to stop the plants developing, but to help them grow stronger and taller.

HEY DAD! Do you want to do your child a favour? Stake him well! Let him know where he stands. Let him know clearly and firmly. And, as he grows older, let him know why.

kids need #5:
A DAD WHO KEEPS HIS COOL

What do you do when you’re angry, Dad? Yell? Hit something? Turn nasty? Stomp out and slam the door? Fret and fume and do a slow-burn?

How did you learn to do it that way?

Ten-to-one, it’s because that’s the way your own father did it – right? And ten-to-one, your kids are going to do it that way, too. Not because it’s right – but because that’s what they’re busy learning from Dad. That’s the model you’re providing.

OUCH!
Think about it … When junior knocks over his cup of Milo and dad yells at him or whacks him or gives him the silent-treatment, the lesson he’s being taught is this: it’s okay to scream or hit or sulk when something upsets you. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Our kids don’t have to grow up to be bullies with foul tempers or pressure-cookers with ulcers. There are healthier ways to cope with anger … and our kids can learn them best if they learn them from us.

Try, for example, putting your grumpy feelings into words and giving the culprit a reason – “I’m annoyed with you Johnny because you didn’t put away my stuff!” That’s so much better than unfairly blitzing the entire family. And it teaches our kids how to handle a powerful emotion – one that can cause them (and those they’re close to) a lot of hurt and unhappiness as they grow older.

HEY DAD! Don’t make the mistake of thinking that anger is bad. And don’t expect your kids to like you all the time. Here’s an unusual tribute from one young woman: “The most loving thing I think my parents ever did for me was to let me hate them when I felt like it. Know what I mean? Not real hate, of course, but real anger.”

kids need #6:
A DAD WHO WON’T DUCK THE HARD QUESTIONS

The “Daddy-where-did-I-come-from?” type questions aren’t too difficult. These days even fathers can say, “You grew in Mum’s tummy.” But from then on the questions get harder: “What are clouds made of?” “How many stars are there?” “Why did Grandma die?” “Where is she now?” “Did God make flies?” “Who made God?” 

Curious youngsters can bring a breath of fresh air to stale adults. And during their early years, especially, they seem interested in absolutely everything! So let’s welcome their questions, and when we don’t know the answer, it’s okay to admit it!

Some of their really tricky questions will feature beliefs and values. They’ve got a strong moral sense, and they hate to see others “getting away with it” – especially if it’s something they’re not allowed to do. 

“That’s not fair!” comes the loud childhood cry. And you’ve got to be the ethics referee – whether you like it or not.

In later years, when your toddlers sprout into teenagers, this can feel like non-stop war! But don’t give up in disgust. Hang in there … listen to their arguments … explain yours in love … be slow to react and quick to forgive.

One day, you might be pleasantly surprised how much your young-adult kids have learnt from you. One day, you’ll be friends again …

HEY DAD! Remember the flaming arguments you used to have with your father? Well, you’re about to have them again – with your adolescent kids! But they’re just testing the lessons you’ve taught them … trying your values on for size … deciding how much of your lifestyle they’ll adopt. You see, they must soon make their own lonely choices over friends, careers, smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, faith, marriage, you-name-it. And you must let them …

kids need #7:

A DAD WHO’S NOT AFRAID OF FAILING

One of the biggest obstacles your kids will meet is a fear of failure. And YOU may be the one who gives it to them!

Sure, if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And sure, we want our kids to be the best they possibly can be. But everyone stumbles and falls on the road to maturity – and, like the rest of us, children sometimes screw-up.

Our cold, hard world does nasty things to nice kids – and they’ll be made to feel bad enough about their shortcomings and failures without us making them feel worse. So ask yourself:
• Am I teaching my kids that the only real mistake is the one from which they learn nothing?
• When they fail at something, do I cheerfully encourage them – or do
I get impatient, put them down, or lash out?
• Am I willing to try new things myself – and risk failing in front of my kids? Go roller-skating with them – and risk falling flat on my face? Play them at some new game – and risk losing?

HEY DAD! Thomas Edison tried in vain almost 8000 times before he finally figured out the proper combination for making a successful light-bulb. But he reckoned all those wrong choices weren’t ‘failures’ – just ‘good education’.

kids need #8:
A DAD WHO CAN SAY SORRY

Truth is, real fathers can’t do everything – we’re just plain old ordinary dads, with weak spots, rough edges and flaws. But that needn’t be a problem – so long as we can admit it occasionally!

Do you bomb-out as a dad by being too grumpy, too impatient, too busy, too tired, or not there as often as you’d like to be? Do you only get around to doing half the things you mean to do with your kids?

Well, your kids can accept that – providing you can! Providing they get to hear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from time to time. 

There’s healing in those magic words: “I’m sorry … I blew it … I shouldn’t have done that … My mistake … I was wrong, and I feel bad … Will you forgive me?”

HEY DAD! Never be too proud to let your kids see that you’re human too, that you’re still under construction, that you still have much to learn …

kids need #9:
A DAD WHO TREATS MUM WELL

Kids need dads who will partner their wives in the parenting process, and share fully the special dreams, frustrations, hopes and disappointments involved in raising children.

Remember: you wouldn’t BE a dad if it wasn’t for your kids’ mum!

So when was the last time you bought her some flowers – just to say “You’re the greatest”? Sneaked her away for a weekend – just the two of you? Did the shopping, washing, ironing, bed-making, school lunches, whatever-it-is-Mum-always-does – just to give her a break?

HEY DAD! Want to score some really big points with your kids? Let them see that you love their mum! Let it show in all the little courtesies – the way your respect her … encourage her … honour her as your equal … make her special … apologise to her … hug’n’kiss her. Award Mum some five-star, solid-gold pampering – it could be the best investment you ever make! 

Keepers of the Vine