There is no more fundamental desire in a father than to help make a better life for his kids. He wants them to avoid the mistakes, trials, and frustrations that he has experienced, and to help them achieve their goals without regret.
Of course, that’s much easier said than done. There is a lot that goes into making a great life for your kid, but your desire to do so is an essential first step to making it happen.
The first thing you need to do is know your kid. From the time he or she is big enough to exhibit personality, you should be painting a picture of who your child is and what makes him or her tick. You may have a shy child. Your child may be artistic. Whatever you see developing, encourage it in a positive direction and avoid the temptation to turn your kid into a new version of you.
Sports are a great example of this. Some kids just wake up with a desire to get a ball and start dribbling. Encourage that, even if you don’t know a travel from a flagrant foul. If you make the effort to involve your kids in the sports they enjoy, you’ll identify good adults who will be able to develop their talents. If there’s real ability there, you can be the one to help them assess their prospects of playing in college, guiding them in how to contact college coaches and promote themselves at the next level.
Not only is it important to encourage your child in positive pursuits, it’s also important to steer them away from destructive ones. With so much that can be done online without parents knowing, it’s easier than ever for your child to get involved in things that are intended for adults. Working through the teachable moments about any dangerous behavior is incredibly important for your kids, and it can give you the opportunity to teach responsibility, maturity, and self-control.
The process of teaching is, in and of itself, a real challenge for dads. Not only does your kid need to understand the lesson you’re trying to teach, he also needs to hear it in a way that makes him receptive.
Kids hate nagging. The more you preach, teach, extol, and espouse, the less they will listen. They reach a point where they’ll just nod and give you an exasperated “Okaaaay!” to try to get you to stop. Is this disrespectful? Sure it is, but it should also send you the message that you are running it into the ground. Your kids will only absorb what they pay attention to, and re-hashing the same point endlessly is worthless.
Speaking of lessons, always reinforce the value of education. While the debate about the need for a four-year degree goes on and on, it’s undeniable that something beyond high school is essential for a realistic prospect of a good job that will provide the lifestyle your kids will want.
This goes back to our initial learning about our kids. The kid who hates to read but loves to work with his hands can go into a skilled occupation like welding or fabrication, bypassing the bachelor’s and setting out on a gratifying and lucrative career. Likewise, if you have a kid that explores scientific discovery or really connects with health care, college is the place. The better you know your kids, the better you can advise them, but even as you form your understanding of your kids, you can impress upon them the importance of more than just that diploma at age 18.
Perhaps the most important lesson out of all this is that no matter what traits you may share with your child, he or she is still a unique individual. It’s incumbent upon you to help him or her make the best of life, whether it’s on your path or another.