My husband, Anthony E. Chapman, has graced our wonderful readers at Biracial Bookworms with a refreshing contribution with a male perspective on parenting. We know how important it is to get dads involved in parenting their children.
I could not let my wife have all the fun, and wanted to reach out to her readers to share how I see things through the lens of a father.
First of all, I am not an educator (although I’ve played one in a make-believe story with my 5-year-old daughter and was quite successful at the role). My prose may not measure up to that of an English professor, so please read with a little grace. Below I will outline why it is so valuable for fathers to get more involved in parenting.
You Cannot Choose Your Family
Children do not get to choose their parents, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and many other environmental conditions that become their world. There is no vote on how children are nurtured and under which conditions. Most of us learn our parenting skills primarily from our parents. In general, parents want the best for their children without giving them everything.
As a young child, I had very limited material items, and cherished the few that I received. I did not have a consistent male role model in my life during my formative years to teach me how to balance the responsibilities of parenting. However, I have never allowed that to be an excuse or stumbling block to learning the important roles of parenting and education. I gained a measure of success through hard work and sheer determination. Moreover, education has been a critical part of the experience. A book that I highly recommend is Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Home, Work, and School by John Medina. In this book, he illustrates how to surround your child with a positive environment for learning. He captures how to be a more effective leader, not only in your profession, but also at home.
MYTH: Men are only Financial Providers
Most young men were taught while growing up, “you must provide for your family, that’s what men do.” I was instilled with this traditional mindset from a young age. There was never any discussion of parental responsibilities outside of providing financially. I believe teaching is a fundamental aspect of being a parent (whether we know how or not). Some may say it is a fundamental responsibility, but it’s important to recognize what this influential role encompasses.
Once again, I am not a formally trained educator of my children, but my responsibility is to do more than just provide a paycheck. My goal is to play a significant role in teaching my children how to become a positive citizen and contributor to their community and society. Time is a critical element outside of our control, and our children seemingly move along the spectrum of life at a rapid pace. There is no time to waste and fathers cannot procrastinate or brush off their responsibilities in educating their children. Even subtle acknowledgement and attentiveness is what a young child needs from their father.
Effective Parenting for Men
What does it take to be an effective parent? For starters, all children are different. I have three children (another on the way), and each of my children responds to different love languages. Although they may share characteristics, each requires a different level of attention and praise. You must get to know your child to understand how they communicate. Then regardless of their age or personality, you know how to connect.
When my son was young, he and I would go to Denny’s for breakfast. Our time together started with me reading the newspaper and my son watching TV on the restaurant screen. As father and son, this individual time allowed us to connect without words. I knew that the flow of conversation would begin when he was ready. Before long, we were discussing a variety of subjects without elicitation so my son did not feel forced.
I was consistently attentive to his concerns and listened carefully before speaking. In doing this, I was able to decide how to manage the communication without causing him to withdraw. This allows an open-ended approach to ease our roles as parent and child. Additionally, I learned so much from him and enjoyed the one on one time (not to mention the delicious breakfast).
The Art of Listening
If you read How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber, this type of engagement can start early and the location can be any venue that’s conducive to communication. You can trust in the foundation you have built and be open-minded and ready to listen even if it is difficult. By allowing the relationship to be an adventure, your child will appreciate your efforts for years to come.
In conclusion, reflect and take action if necessary to be a more involved father. Start with a small, measurable step, like breakfast, towards your ultimate goal. Be aware of negative childhood habits or experiences and break the cycle. Above all, take responsibility. An added bonus: while investing quality time with your kids, you never know who you may meet along the way!:)
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