The good news for dads, it’s all about mindset.
There’s been an often repeated phrase around for a very long time when a parenting crisis hits that somehow is supposed to help all of us parents feel better.
It simply says that “kids don’t come with an owner’s manual.”
That comment sort of lets us off the hook when things start spiraling out of control. It gives us permission to believe there’s really not much you can do to increase your influence and effectiveness and actually become intentional in your dealings with your kids.
It says, hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride and there’s nothing you can do about it!
But what if there really were an owner’s manual to guide our thinking as a dad?
What if we could all learn to do the kinds of thinking necessary to actually become an effective parent who raises successful kids with their own successful thinking?
What if we knew which thoughts actually work for us and which thoughts are working against us?
If you are a dad blessed with more than one child, you also know how very different children can all be from each other. And you most certainly also know how different they can be from us!
A friend of mine who has three kids a few years apart was talking to me one day about his kids. He said, “I absolutely love spending time with my three kids; well maybe all except for the middle one!”
Although he was trying to be funny, I suspect that comment had a great deal of truth in it. We love our kids, but sometimes one (or even more!) just rubs us the wrong way and we can’t help but have a greater understanding of why some animals eat their young.
All kidding aside, here’s something you don’t want to miss.
There really is an owner’s manual for parents and how we need to think. But how that manual works is much more about us as parents and who we are and our thinking than who our kids are.
So the manual works on us and changes our thinking, not theirs.
At least in the beginning…
What Attitudes Do Effective Dads Have?
We all have them.
For better or for worse, they set us up for success or utter failure.
I absolutely love the quote from Abraham Lincoln,
We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
Attitudes are what make people see the cloud or the silver lining, the storm or the rainbow, the problem or the opportunity it brings.
As parents, our attitudes about ourselves, our kids and our ability to think differently about being an effective parent are the secret ingredients in our success.
After learning that we have to find a way to engage in intentional thinking about our parenting, we also need to consider which attitudes are necessary to keep the train moving down the track.
Effective dads keep front and center an attitude of discovery and learning.
They know and understand that they haven’t arrived yet with all the answers, but their positive attitude towards personal growth makes them smarter today than they were yesterday, and they are certain that tomorrow they will be smarter than they are today.
Effective dads have an attitude of optimism about their own ability to parent.
They learn from their mistakes and focus on the learning, not the mistake.
The have an attitude of gratitude.
They are grateful for the opportunity to mold and shape a young life, and they are just thankful each day for the responsibility.
I think the importance of having the right attitude in life, and specifically as a parent, is best summed up in this little poem by Walter D. Wintle.
If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost,
For out in the world we find
Success being with a fellow’s will;
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you’re outclassed, you are:
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or later the man who wins
Is the one who thinks he can.
― Walter D. Wintle
Holding on to the right attitude, despite our circumstances, is one of the very first commitments in our thinking that we have to make if we are serious about this journey in parenting.
It’s the secret sauce.
What About Our Beliefs as Dads?
We now know that our attitudes are critically important to our effective parenting, but before we can go much further in our “thinking about thinking” conversation, we need to understand that it is just as important to consider our beliefs.
What I mean by considering our beliefs is: what is it that we believe about ourselves?
What do we believe about our abilities and capabilities?
What do we believe about our potential and, most importantly, what do we believe about our ability to positively impact the lives of our kids and chart a course for their successful future?
Tony Robbins, American life coach, self-help author, and motivational speaker, defines belief this way: “It’s a feeling of certainty about what something means. The challenge is that most of our beliefs are generalizations about our past, based on our interpretations of painful and pleasurable experiences.”
So with that definition in mind, if a belief is a feeling of certainty, then an effective parent needs to believe first in their ability to be an effective parent.
They need to have a feeling of certainty about it.
Although all of us at times experience self-doubt, it shouldn’t define us, nor should we have a “doubt habit” in our thinking as a parent.
Being empowered by the belief that you can be a successful parent is critical to being a successful dad.
No parenting book ever written will be of much use to you if you don’t first decide to believe in yourself and your own ability to grow and change your way of thinking, when necessary.
We also need to believe that no matter where we are in our parenting journey, it’s never too late to learn new ways of thinking and behaving.
Some of you may be new dads; others may have teenagers or even children that are now adults.
Some may not even be a dad yet, but hope to someday give it a whirl.
My point is that it really doesn’t matter.
The only difference in these parents or prospective parents is the age of their children. Your child’s age has nothing to do with your ability to make a decision today to change the way you think in your role as a dad and then begin acting on those thoughts.
Remember, the owner’s manual is all about us, not about the kids.
It’s never too late to start.
Leadership guru, author and my mentor, John C. Maxwell, says in his book How Successful People Think, “It’s hard to overstate the value of changing your thinking. Good thinking can do many things for you: generate revenue, solve problems, and create opportunities. It can take you to a whole new level—personally and professionally. It really can change your life.”
I like that statement a lot.
It gives us hope that we don’t have to remain stuck, frustrated and afraid.
We can actually make a decision to change the way we think and have positive outcomes.
That kind of thinking also changes what we believe about ourselves.
Having an owner’s manual as a dad might just be easier than you think!