There is no greater calling for a man than that of being a husband and then a father. Dad has a responsibility to love, protect, and provide for the family. The Daddy Life podcast and blog was created to help dads fulfill those responsibilities and more. The choices a dad makes directly affects the future of the family, the community, the nation, and the world. Our society often portrays parenting to be a spectator sport for dads. This is unfortunate and yet is too often an accurate description. Some kids grow up with their dads not even being fans of parenting at all given the overwhelming evidence available as listed in The Father Factor. It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t. Parenting works best as a team sport rather than as a solo sport or a tag-team sport.
If you read enough material authored by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo you will learn very fast that they put a premium on the husband-wife relationship. Mr. Ezzo goes as far as to say that you will only be as good of a parent as you are a spouse. I agree with this and encourage you to work to keep your marriage strong. This will be a great live demonstration for your children while also keeping you and your spouse tuned in to each other during this parenting journey and for when your children are grown.
There are some other things that dads in particular need to be intentional about that will help him maintain his role as a key player in parenting. The following are four out of the eight items that Gary Ezzo calls The Father’s Mandate:
1. A father must give his children the freedom to fail. Your children need the freedom to fail…in front of Dad. So many adults are haunted by the fact that they feel like they could never live up to their dad’s expectations. Achievement and relationships are areas that every person will experience failure. Dad’s job is to help them find the good in those failures so their kids can learn and move on.
2. A father must be the encourager of the family. We’re not just talking about encouraging words but a spirit of encouragement. Dad’s can leave little notes for the kids in their lunch boxes telling them you love and are thinking about them. Dad’s can write a letter each year on their child’s birthday telling them how much the child means to them. How many of us wish we had just one single letter like this from our dads? Ladies, remind your husbands about this one!
3. A father must guard his tongue and his tone and learn to measure his response against the excitement on their faces. Mr. Ezzo does such a great job explaining this one. In Daddy Life podcast episode 17 I included a clip of him telling a story about how he learned the importance of this mandate in his own home. It had to do with the 1980s and his wife and daughters getting “perms” for the first time. I promise, you will laugh out loud at this one. Dads and moms need think before they speak. Keep in mind that your kids might be trying to be helpful. They might be following instructions given by the other parent. Try to understand the context of the situation before responding too quickly.
4. A father must routinely embrace his children. This sounds so simple, but it can be difficult, particularly for some dads who are not the hugging type. Mom’s hugs most often provide a feeling of comfort and love. Dad’s hugs deliver feelings of security and safety. Dads of girls need to be sure they do not change how they treat their daughters in this area when their bodies begin to mature. Don’t be afraid of your girls just because their bodies are changing. Continue to show them love in the same way, otherwise you might be setting them up to look for that safety and security in someone else’s arms. I recently had a guest (Stacy Ratliff) on the Daddy Life podcast. He is the father of three teen girls and he reemphasized this one during the interview.
So those are some of the macro-level things for dads and even moms to work on. I want to wrap this post up with a short scenario and some tips to help dads remain a team player in the parenting journey on a day-to-day basis.
These are the ways I’ve learned over the years to help me become more of a team player.
Do your Couch Time! – Yes it IS that important.
If dad has a job situation that allows for occasional calls from mom, then show an interest and give your wife the freedom to call when she needs input from you. This is a way to engage in the game of life with your wife and children when needed. Occasionally things have happened that prompted my wife to call me at work during the day to ask my opinion on how to respond. It might have been a behavior issue, a feeding/nursing problem, or even a health issue that she wanted a different perspective on before taking action. It makes me feel valuable when she truly wants my input in a problem area. My wife is in the trenches solo from the time she gets up until I get home in the evening. She has found herself in situations where she couldn’t see the forest because of the trees. My wife knows that she can call me. Dads should be willing to take these calls.
We have learned from the Ezzos to be thinking parents and to do this effectively as a team we need to agree to a game plan. That means we need to regularly communicate so that neither of us are making important decisions in a vacuum and we are both working off of the same game plan. Call your wife on the way home from work. This helps you to know what your wife is working on with each of your kids and what the issues of the day might be. Mom sometimes needs to alter the game plan a little to work on a specific behavior issue and dad can undo all the ground that has been gained in that area by giving different consequences (or none at all) when he comes home. Know what the issues are, what encouragement or discipline is being used, and be ready to reinforce it when you get home.
Choose what you listen to on the way home carefully. It should be something that would help you transition out of your workday. Also be ready to turn your work off so to speak. This may require a few minutes at home to change clothes and regroup before fully engaging with your wife and the kids. Let your wife know what you need when you come through the door at the end of the day.
Be fully involved. Pick a single sport game to watch during the weekend and then turn off the TV. If you like to watch a sport with your kid(s) then record it and watch it with your child later when you can fast forward through the commercials. If you are anything like me you don’t want your little ones watching commercials for Hardees’s, Victoria Secret, or GoDaddy just to name a few.
Take a child with you when running errands. My oldest is beginning to realize that riding along to the big box store is not always the most fun for him, but the younger ones don’t care what you are doing with them as long as you are together. My oldest is getting to a point where he wants to have input into what we do when we spend time one-on-one.
Take care of all of the kids solo. Let your wife go out for a day or even a weekend. You will not do things perfect and the house might be a wreck by the time the weekend is over, but give your wife a break. Walk a day in her shoes. You will get a whole new appreciation for the job she performs while you are off “killing it and dragging it home”. You will gain a whole new level of respect from your wife by even attempting this one. Call in a grandparent for reinforcements if necessary, but at least give it a try once in a while.
Dads are parents and they should act like it. Be weird. Be different. Be more than just a biological father to your children. Be a Daddy.