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Challenge: What Do Fathers Do Best?

Raising Boys to Be Great Dads

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“A Dad”

“And..a NHL hockey player.”

This is what my then-5-year old son said last year when his teacher asked what he wanted to be when he grew up.

He even drew almost illegible pictures of both “professions.”

But what does it mean to be a Dad? Most anyone can father a child, but being a great dad can be just as much work as playing for the Stanley Cup. My husband and I have three kids: two boys and a girl. And we constantly tell them that our tough decisions – the ones that make them cry, apologize to others, work hard and go out of their comfort zones – are us doing our jobs to raise good people. But a good father? A good mother? Parenthood is an entirely different role. It’s a profession we start the second the baby is put in our arms, and learn on the go, putting out one fire after another.

I’m a mom of two boys. Delicious, adorable, tiny people who will one day be someone’s best friend, employee, partner and potentially -- father. And that means more than just being a good person. It’s bigger than that. This is truly a profession, and our job as parents will be to get them ready for this role of a lifetime. Here are some things I think we can do:

  1. Forget the allowance. Who needs money when you have family-togetherness as the reward? Said no kid ever. But the reality is that when kids help each other do chores, they’re creating a sense of teamwork (while learning patience and negotiation skills) they will take with them for life. And I like a dad who focuses on the family-unit, not just himself.
  2. Don’t deliver their homework. Or clean up after their mistakes, for that matter. Raising responsible people means we need to let them fail sometimes. And our running back home for their lunch/snow pants/library book won’t teach them to hold themselves accountable, the way they ultimately need to be.
  3. Teach budgeting. Last year, the best advice we got before a trip to Disney World was to give the kids a budget. So the oldest two received $20 each and could buy any trinkets/junk they wanted. But once it was gone, that was it. This type of budgeting has saved our family a good deal of cash and frustration – but has also started to teach our kids about making good choices and putting a value on what they buy. And when the costs of parenthood creep up, it will help the next generation of moms and dads make tough financial decisions.
  4. Hug – a lot. Our family is big on hugging it out. Bedtime snuggles. Hugs through tantrums. Physical contact has helped my kids get more in touch with their feelings – and to those of others. The other day, the same child who wants to be a Dad when he grows up, went up to his Kindergarten teacher and said “I can tell you’re having a tough day. I’m sorry.” “Chase,” she said to him “it doesn’t surprise me that you noticed that. Thank you.” I’m working on developing boys who are helpful and in tune with how those around them might be affected by their actions. This type of kindness and thoughtfulness will serve them well as fathers.
  5. Embrace the sillies. Life can be incredibly demanding, but it’s fun. Just like fatherhood. So it’s important to teach our boys not to take themselves so seriously -- and to take a break to be silly or do something that makes them smile – when their hectic lives get overwhelming.
  6. Be gender neutral. Boys can do anything girls can do. Let’s remember that. When we use language that “dolls are a girl thing” or “hockey is a boy thing,” we just perpetuate these horrible stereotypes that our grandchildren will have to fix.
  7. Listen. When they talk, we have to listen. Hear their feelings, value their opinions, make them feel worthy. We can disagree. We can start a conversation. But making them feel valued and teaching them how to talk calmly and effectively, will hopefully make them patient communicators – and listeners themselves.
  8. Restrict fun. Teaching boundaries will ultimately create parents who can help set boundaries. Kids want to do everything, and we have a hard time saying no. We’d do anything to make them happy, but sometimes it’s just hurting who they are in the long run. This go-go-go generation needs some down time.
  9. Have great male role models. Maybe it’s their dad. And maybe it’s not. But to be a great father one day, it’s important for our kids to model this role after someone in their lives, rather than create it from scratch.

Let’s face it; our kids will always try to do a better job than we did. And that’s okay. But when we’re raising them, we need to remember that our actions and lessons are not only creating the next generation of husbands, friends and employees – but fathers. And that’s no job for the weary.

So in honor of Father’s Day, we should stop for a second and not only applaud today’s dads – but the generation who raised them.Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there – and NHL hockey players.

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