I‘m not short of things to say, as anyone who knows me will testify, but I don’t want to rant, or ramble or give you some simple meaningless musing. So, I’ve been pondering if there are any lessons I’ve learned over the 9 ½ years I’ve spent as a dad..
Here are just a few tips I could pass on:
- Be where you are; don’t be in the same physical space but different mental place. For example, watching a film together but actually checking email.
- Think before you say “No”; this is a new one for me but it does work. Then if the answer remains no we can work it out together. It has prevented some arguments that’s for sure.
- Talk about and share in what interests and excites them as well as sharing your passions with them. Find some common ground for shared experiences.
But I thought I’d actually talk about something particularly challenging. Being a role model. Not just in the general sense; but with the very particular case of apology.
This is something every child will have to do. This is something every child will have to receive. How do we model this?
Really, that is easy. We model by doing. So, don’t pass up an opportunity to apologise and seek forgiveness. When apologised to and asked for forgiveness then respond graciously but do acknowledge the wrong. Forgiving is not pretending it didn’t happen.
No-one likes to admit they are wrong
Ok, well that’s the theory. How does it work in real life? Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. After all, I may know what to do or how to behave, I may even desire to act like that but I don’t always follow through.
I recall one time being asked by my daughter “Daddy, can I have a satsuma please?”. My instant response, based on my own hunger and nothing else was “No, it’s nearly tea time”. Now, it wasn’t nearly tea time at all. I was completely wrong, a fact pointed out to me very kindly by my mother-in-law. What to do? Stick to my guns and insist that at least 90 minutes’ wait was still nearly tea time or apologise and allow my daughter to have something healthy and good for her while we waited for our meal.
A tough call. No-one likes to admit they are wrong. On this occasion I knelt down and apologised and then fetched and peeled a satsuma. Not every occasion goes like that.
sometimes they get it right when we mess up
As a counter-point I recall, far more recently, my daughter and I getting increasingly cross with one another at bed-time. The usual battle; I wanted to sit down in peace and watch TV, she wanted to stay up and make noise. Not strictly compatible options. I got cross, she got upset, she got cross, I got annoyed. I said goodnight and as I was walking out of her room I heard “Daddy, I’m sorry, I love you. I don’t want to go to sleep mad with you”. On this occasion she was clearly the bigger person. We then both apologised and made our peace with each other.
See, sometimes they get it right when we mess up. That can only happen if they have seen it modelled first.
My challenge then is to think about what character traits or behaviour I would like to see in my children and then figure out how to best model that for them.
By Nathan Davies