Here I am patiently waiting for the day my sons grow old enough to think of this question. How do you be a good father? This is the same question I asked my Grandfather, my mentor and role model. I plan to give them the same answer he gave me:
1. What you say you're going to do, do it.
When your kids make mistakes and you feel a punishment is necessary, follow through with that punishment. No empty threats. And likewise if you promise a reward for good behavior, make sure you give them that reward. Good or bad, just follow through. Kids need this steady hand, this consistency in their lives. It seeps deep into their character and gives them strength to weather hard times ahead. Discipline and Rewards also teach them consequences for their actions, arguably one of the most important lessons of a persons life. As a mentor, I would teach young men that crossed my path that the day they started taking responsibility for their own actions, is the day they become a man. And all of this is reinforced by Dads when they also follow through with what they say they will do.
RIP Kenneth Palmateer
31JAN1934 - 8APR2007
2. Work Hard and Reap what you sow
It's true that hard work never goes out of style. But learning to earn something is certainly a lesson being lost over time. This lesson is best learned when they watch you and your example. If you work hard, earn your pay, and use what you earn to support your family and lifestyle, then your children will follow suit (or atleast we hope so). Show your kids there's nothing wrong with rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty. That looking someone in the eye and shaking their hand is sometimes all the thanks that's needed. Raise your boys to be men who know how to work and honor their word. The world will thank you for it later.
3. Respect their mother
You can not imagine the profound impact it has on the children seeing how you interact with their mom. Show respect and restraint not only because it's right but because it may be emulated for years to come. Young girls may seek relationships where she's treated the way her mom was treated. So ask yourself, is this how you want your future son-in-law to treat your daughter. Perhaps we will tackle self-restraint and cool-down tactics in a future blog post. But that discussion is for another day. For now, just know that I know it can be hard to keep your cool, figure out how to do it. If you are no longer in a relationship with the mother, do your best keep conversations civil and short. Always think what is in the best interest of the child and you can't go wrong.
4. Make memories
This sounds like a no brainer but in this day and age we get comfortable with electronics and quiet time. It can be made even more difficult when the kids are begging to just go back inside and play with electronics. But please stick with it. When they grow up and look back on everything, it will not be held against you that you pushed them into a memory making moment. But it may be resented that you never bonded because you gave in to what they wanted at the moment. I love outdoor adventures for the best memory making moments: a hike on a nature trail, fishing trip, building something together in the backyard, forts in the living room, etc. The look on their face when they pull in the first fish is absolutely priceless.
5. Make time
Life never slows down. We work. We work some more at home. We sit down for only a moment and you guessed it, there's something else to do. No matter how tired you get, make time for your family. This is as much a pep talk for myself as it is for you reading this. It's a never-ending grind between work and responsibilities so you just have to force yourself to carve out the time for family events. It could be as simple as sitting down in the kids room while they are playing and saying hello. Or it could be as elaborate as planning a short road trip this weekend to go check out a nearby lake or site-seeing location. Whatever it may be, just remember to make the time. Before too long the opportunity will have passed by and there aren't any take-backs.