I grew up without my dad in my life, so often I feel like I am learning on the fly. I tend to question myself a lot, wondering if I am doing things right. I have had some amazing people in my life to help guide and direct me, but I have found the greatest teacher of all is actually my daughter. Anya Shea will turn 2 in August and she has already taught me so many lessons about relationships and fathering in her short life. Kids have a lot to teach us if we are willing to listen. Especially as men, we tend to get all macho and internalize everything, shutting down our ability to open ourselves up and learn. I mean it sounds logical, right? We are the adult, what could a child teach us? The answer to that question is “a lot”.
In my new book, “Time with Daddy”, I talk about 5 important relationship lessons that Anya has taught me over the past few years. These lessons have dramatically changed the way I spend time with my daughter.
Some of these lessons were hard for me to apply initially because they required a change in the way I approached and handled my relationship with Anya. She forced me out of a comfortable place into a new realm of fathering that I previously had no knowledge of.
Very briefly, the 5 lessons are; Be Present. Be Aware. Be Prepared. Be Love. Behave.
Our children need us to be present with all of our faculties. Physically, Emotionally, Mentally and Spiritually. Physical presence alone does not represent the entirety of our being. Our children desire that we be fully engaged with them, willing to remove any distraction and give them our full attention during our time together.
Awareness is something that has to be trained or it will train itself. In our society today, everything is vying for our attention. To be aware is to be fully present. Awareness of our children means we care about the things they care about, we attend to more than just their physical needs, we speak into their weaknesses and hurts, and we celebrate their conquests.
Being aware forces you to be present, and vice versa.
Be prepared, this is a tough one. Being prepared means always being ready to spend time with your kids. It may be inconvenient but it very rarely is inconceivable. I share in my book about how we have had to alter our planning to ensure we accommodate the hurricane that is our 2 year old. This means that your day may not go as planned. You may not end up getting that project done or finishing that TV show…and that’s OK. Prepare your schedules to be flexible enough that when your child needs you, you can be there.
Being love requires more than just words, it requires action. In our world today it is most important that we show our children how to love. Kids do what they are taught and what they are allowed. Make sure the love you are showing them is the love you want them to show others. Never miss a chance to express your love, say it often, but show it always. Hug them, kiss them, tickle them, chase them, read to them and lay with them.
Before my daughter turned 1 she began trying to whistle, simply because she had seen and heard me whistling. In that moment I came to a powerful understanding that she would replicate and imitate everything I did and that I needed to behave! We as Fathers need to behave around our kids. Our behaviors become their behaviors, our reactions and responses become theirs. Our words become their words. Children learn by watching and repeating. Never forget that.
We as dads have a profound impact on our children, and our children on us. These relationships take time and effort but our kids are worth it. Take some time today to sit and evaluate your relationships and be willing to make some changes if necessary.
Seth is a Husband, Father, Author, Writing Consultant, Life Coach and International Speaker. Seth’s new book, “Time with Daddy” released on Father’s Day weekend.