There are three common problems that hurt our “effort reputation” with our kids. We need to make sure they don’t read these on us:
Effort Reputation Problems
1) Ignoring – Many times we think that if we ignore our kids long enough they’ll “get the picture” and let us read the paper, watch TV, or talk to a friend on the phone in peace. As you may have discovered, not only does this not really work, but more importantly, kids read right through it. We don’t want to teach our kids to interrupt for petty reasons, but the first few times a kid says “DaddyDaddyDaddyDaddyDaddyDaddyDaddyDaddy” while we’re reading might be a good start for investing in them by quietly teaching them not to interrupt rather than just ignoring them, or worse, telling them to shut up.
2) Excuses – This is a huge trap for us busy Dads. The worst part is that often times we do have a good excuse: Life is busy and the kids should know that sometimes they don’t always get what they want. The problem is that this response teaches our kids that we’re not able to manage our lives and that “circumstances beyond our control” make it impossible for us to be with them. This frustrates kids and it’s also not entirely true. And looking at it from the kid-perspective it makes a Dad out to be a wimp—a man that just can’t control his life and schedule to do what he really wants to do. We should tell them the truth and explain life rather than excusing it away.
[quote_left]“Children can read a Dad’s effort long before they can read words.” [/quote_left]3) Promises – It’s not just empty promises that are harmful. It is true that nothing breaks trust like a promise that becomes a lie. But all promises, even those kept by a Dad, can be harmful. The problem resides in the need to make promises in the first place, not in whether we can keep our word or not. If we are making a promise to our kids then we are trying to placate them because of some frustration, fear, or desire they have. It is better to figure out just what that frustration, fear, or desire is in them and talk about that directly. The tough part about figuring those out is that their real problems are often with us, and deep down we know it, and thus avoid it. We need to suck it up and love them, not just promise to love them at a future date.
In my home, I honestly never felt like one of the things Dad had scheduled around. I knew I was the priority. Even when he was gone I knew he had made the effort to be my Dad all the time.
I still have the tape I wrote about last week of Dad reading my favorite stories. I wouldn’t trade it now for it’s weight in gold. It’s a priceless souvenir of his effort to make me the priority of his life. Your intentional effort—no matter how seemingly small—can create that priceless feeling in your children.
Questions to Ask Yourself or a Group of Other Dads:
- “Children can read a Dad’s effort long before they can read words.” What extra effort are you already making as a Dad that is making a difference?
- What were the most common excuses you heard from your parents growing up? Do you use some common excuses?
- What kinds of things do your kids do that you’d rather just ignore?
- What excuses do you think you use the most? How can you rephrase these in the future?
- Do you agree that promises can be a problem as a parent? How can a Dad help their kids feel like they are the priority?