Fathers: Practical engagement with your child
Dr Gowher Yusuf
Hal 3rd stage, Bengaluru Feb 9, 2017
It is indeed such a big blessing to be a parent. Ask those who are not blessed with children or who lost their child to an illness or accident, and you would realize that being blessed with a child is a blessing and even if we spend all our life thanking the Almighty, we would not be able to thank Him enough!
While holding workshops on parenting, we always notice that mothers are always more eager to learn, while fathers are not even present. Fathers, however, need to realize their importance in the parenting process.
When fathers play with their toddlers, they are not just entertaining them. They are providing a safe, yet challenging arena for toddlers to learn how to interact with the world and with others. Through rough-and-tumble play,
Newsletter – Mid Jan 2015
fathers create obstacles for their children and demand respect for limits and boundaries. At the same time, they challenge their children and encourage them to explore their own strength, their ability to do new things and their impact on the world around them.
Parenting is not an administrative job. A strong father-child relationship is the basis of a confident child.
Children require ‘quantity time’ and not just ‘quality time’. Begin by blocking 15 minutes every day with your kids. ‘Every day’!
15-minutes bucket list as to what you can do with your children:
· Nurture a hobby with your child like gardening, painting or puzzles.
· Have clear goals for your child and consider your 10-points dream goal for him/her.
· Spend time at home helping your spouse and surprise her once in a while by ordering.
· Ask your child what he/she did at school. This leads to more open-ended conversations.
· Read a book or a story together.
Parents, especially fathers, tend to postpone quality time and are unable to set a routine to spend more time with their kids. This is also reflected in the conversations that take place between them, which can be likened to traffic lights. What is common between a parent and traffic lights? Both give instructions, and they’re mostly red!
Our conversations with our children are abrupt and mostly monotonous. This instructional approach to upbringing is the ‘rules of traffic’ model. Parents explain to their children how to behave, assuming that they taught them rules of behaviour as they did the rules of traffic. However, what you try to teach a child doesn’t necessarily get through to them.
For example, a teenager was told countless times that stealing was wrong yet continued to steal. The problem of parenting in this case is not that they tried to teach him the right thing, but that they considered parenting a single, narrow-minded task without fulfilling the range of parental duties.
Be careful not to turn your words into a one-way road, with only you (the parent) speaking and no entry for the children.
Observe and React to Your Child’s Problem
Spend time studying your child, their likes and dislikes. Try to divert and channelize the child’s attention instead of highlighting and prohibiting his/her negative actions.
Break Out of the Myth Called ‘Tomorrow’
Much has been said about the mother’s role and that is why I keep talking about fathers. Some studies have estimated that working fathers spend an average of seven minutes a day talking to their children, which is alarming.
Here is a classic scenario: Dad gets up early, takes the long drive to work, gets off late, takes the long drive home, and gets home very tired. He just wants to have dinner, relax a little, and go to bed so that he can repeat the same routine the next day. Every now and then, he tells himself that he will spend more time with his children tomorrow.
How much time will you spend with your children today? Think of all these perks as you decide whether or not to leave work on time:
· Children will begin to enjoy and look forward to your company.
· Your words of advice will become credible.
· They will become more open and willing to share their fears, concerns or dreams.
In my parenting workshops, I always recall a song that talks about the sad story of a boy who always tries to spend time with his father, but always finds him too busy. When the boy grows up and the father gets older, the father always wants to spend time with his son, but his son always has other things to do.
The message is: Remember that today is a gift and tomorrow is a myth in the parenting cycle.
Messages to Consider While Raising Your Kid
· Have a dialogue with your kids, not a monologue.
· Explain the reasons for a ‘should do’ or ‘should not do’ task.
· Break free of your office routine to spend time with your children.
· The first recipients of your good conduct should be your family.
· How to Get Active with Your Kids: Go cycling, head for the woods, or drive to the nearest park with your kids.
Ensure you call your kids every once in a while for a surprise, “I was missing you” conversation. It would make their day and yours!
Let Fridays or any one day of the week (depending on where you live) be their school pick-up day with you. They would skip the school bus and you drive them home, but not without stopping over at Baskin Robbins for a lovely father-son ice-cream treat!
Instead of that one big vacation, take short walks every alternate day. Have a family restaurant day once a week; those stick. Note: the dining together evening should be a no-mobile affair. Switch off phones or at least turn the Wi-Fi off. Look into your child’s eyes as they speak of their dreams and become a child with them once again.
Gem: That night you might get to understand what the poet meant by, ‘the child is the father of the man!’