You can give your children what you think they need or what they actually need.
It is not about a ride to the toy store or even trip to Disney World. What I am talking about are the three best gifts that you can give your children that money cannot buy. These gifts are rarely considered a part of being a dad, but still the impact of these gifts is unmistakable. But first, you must accept that your behavior serves as a real role model to your children.
Sitting down to write this, it was much harder than I realized to narrow it down to just three, however, I have found these to be essential parts to raising joyful and respectful sons. You know the ones that are ready for the world when the time comes for them to step out on their own.
I can also honestly tell you that I have not always been the ideal parent in these areas that I’ll be sharing with you until I realized their importance. I have selfishly struggled with my own priorities that cause each of these “gifts” to be tough, and sometimes, in conflict with each other. I discovered them by looking back at my life. I had to consider my impact in the development of my own son in his journey to becoming a man.
Back in 2009, my life and business were all about me. I ran a multi-million dollar business, and I was important so I tried to manage my family life much like I did my business. I thought I was a good dad because I was taking care of business. I loved my family, yet I was not really there for them. Fortunately for me, I had a wake up call and part of the silver lining was a shift in my priorities and the realization of what was truly important to me. The payoff for me (and my family) was a complete shift in the way I showed up as a dad.
Here are the three best gifts that you can give your sons.
1. Your attention
Just spending time with your sons is a huge gift. But let’s be clear, being physically present isn’t the same as giving them your attention. If you are going to be present, be present. If you need to check email every few minutes, you might want to consider what is most important in that moment. Before I realized this, I did not even understand what was wrong with my focus or—if I’m being honest—my lack of focus. Taking time to talk and listen to your sons will pay off in a huge way, as they grow older.
2. Being a great husband
You might be concerned about being a great dad. But your first focus is to be a great husband. What you do and say as a husband imparts deeply into the beliefs of your children. It is about so many details of marriage and family. It is about sharing responsibility with your spouse. It is about a common ground as the basis of parental guidance. And it is about showing your children the power of a great marriage. When you put being a great husband first, the gift you give your sons is ever lasting.
You demonstrate what a great husband looks like so that your little boy can see how to treat a woman. If you have daughters, it is about showing them what to look for in their future partners. If you are not the role model of a great husband, you are missing an opportunity that you will never get back.
3. Doing work that you love
It may be subtle, but every time you say, “I have to go to work,” or “I can’t do that because I have to work on,” it sends a signal to your children. They hear your words and it says that work is something you HAVE to do. It takes you away from them. They grow up with a misunderstanding of what work is and can be. Shifting your language to, “I get to go to work” may sound like semantics, but it is your choice to go to work.
And for those of you who really hate what you do for a living…you might not be aware of the way you describe it. Personally, I love what I do now. I changed professions completely in 2010 so that I could be living a more purposeful life. I take time to share with my son the work I do and the value that it brings the world. Doing work you love is an essential part to raising children so that they understand the power of working and the impact we can all make of the world when they grow up to be adults.
Keep in mind it starts at a very early age. Dr. Bruce Lipton, former professor of medicine at Stanford University, says that the subconscious mind is basically a super computer loaded with a database of programmed behaviors, most of which we acquired before we reached the age of six. This means that the messages that you give your child start early, and affect their own thinking patterns for many years.
Now is your chance to be the dad you’ve always wanted and to be aware of what filling your kids with positive reinforcement can do for your children, and their future instead of just what ever comes up. Most gifts come in wrapped some type of packaging. Don’t discount these gifts just because they don’t come with a pretty bow. These gifts will have a much farther-reaching effect than any toy or trip to Disney ever will.
I am sure you can think of other gifts that you can give your children, so put those in the comments to share with others.
Photo: Flickr/ Kelly Sikkema