We, as dads, have a profound influence on our children. After all, kids ultimately do what they see their parents do. If what we do is important to the kind of people our children become, shouldn’t we strive to be great dads? I’d love nothing more than to give you some easy things you can do, but sometimes it takes some hard work to do the thing I’m about to suggest, but I bet you’re up for it. Here are four hard things dads can do to help their kids love all people.
1. WORK LESS. Don’t be that dad, who spends too much time working and here’s why; the more time we spend on our careers, the less time we spend with the people we love. It’s not complicated. There are 24 hours in a day and we need to be aware of how we spend each one. Look, we all need money to pay the bills, but if they don’t see dad too much, they won’t get a chance to see how you treat people.
Try to get to work earlier so you can accomplish what you need to do there and then get home in plenty of time to accomplish what you need to do there as well. By working less, your kids will get the clue that dad loves them even more than he loves his work. The more children are loved in a healthy way, the more they seek love in their lives, and that doesn’t just go for receiving love, but it goes for giving love, too.
2. OPENLY SERVE OTHERS. Imagine for a moment your children spooning food into bowls at a soup kitchen, or putting up beams and siding of a new home with other people in a missionary effort, or putting some money in the hands of a homeless mother with a child in tow. Where would they likely learn to do these things? From seeing others do them… and even more powerfully when they see you do them.
Serving others is usually an emotional endeavor, and women are naturally more sensitive. That’s why when they see dad go out of his way for others, it conveys a potent message. Make an effort to volunteer with your kids. When you take them on errands, don’t just walk by the beggar, ignoring them. There’s a fantastic teaching opportunity there. Spare a few coins. Get involved in local charities. Let them strengthen their communities and they will effectively learn the value of serving others their whole life long… and service is just another form of love.
3. EAT DINNER TOGETHER. This might seem like a little thing, but there is very real and convincing data that suggests that a family that dines together shines together. If you are not the typical meal preparer in your home, then make sure to talk to your partner about this and let them know how important it is to you that you give this practice a shot if you don’t already do it. We all have our individual lives outside of the home, and the kids are no exception to this rule (think practices, rehearsals, studying, etc.).
Eating dinner together, at least, five nights a week gives everyone a moment to reconnect with the family and focus on the family goals instead of themselves. This practice also makes kids feel safe, loved, and confident. According to the Family Dinner Project (www.thefamilydinnerproject.org), kids also have a better chance of avoiding substance abuse, depression, and teen pregnancy, while also seeing higher GPA’s and self-esteems. When you round all of this to the nearest whole number it essentially means that you’ll have more well-rounded kids, and confident, well-rounded kids are more likely to be more liberal in giving their love and affection to others.
4. SAY “I LOVE YOU” MORE. This comes easy to some guys and is very difficult for other guys to do. If you’re fortunate enough to have it come easily to you, then say it and say it often to the kids in your life. Not just your children, but your nieces, nephews, little cousins, and the children of your friends. If the practice of saying “I love you” is challenging for you, then the first thing you should know is that you have a real opportunity to grow personally here. Like I said before, this might not be easy, but it will be WORTH IT. Saying those three words makes you more empathic and positive, and it also helps you be more trusting of others.
The subconscious effects of simply saying I love you are tremendous. The conscious effects are awesome too. It’s kind of hard to say I love you to someone without feeling kind of good. When you say it to your kids, they are reminded of how you feel about them. When you say it, mean it. Don’t just go through the motion of saying it, actually feel it in your heart when you say it. That being said, even going through the motions of saying it is better than nothing and can be a good place to start. Neuroscience shows that the more children are assured of your love for them by hearing those three precious words the more they will be willing to say it to others who have earned their love.
Implementing these practices might be hard for you, but I know you can do it! In fact, the harder these things are for you, the more drastic the positive changes will be in your life and the lives of your kids. And if you need a little extra motivation to make these changes…just picture in your mind the kind of individual you want your child to become, and know that you play a huge role in forming that person.
So…what’s for dinner?
Photo: Flickr/ Ed Yourdon