I took a class with you a few years ago and one topic (among many) I remember you talking about was good parenting. Except I remember you saying there was a difference between good parenting and great parenting. My wife and I were divorced years ago, and I only had visitation of our kids. Looking back at those days, I think I was mediocre at best. But here we are, and I now have four grandchildren, three boys and a girl. The ages range from four to eleven. I feel like I have one last chance to finally do this right. Can you give me some ideas?
Former Class Member in Colorado
One might argue there is a big difference between being a father vs. a grandfather, but I disagree. Although our time with g.children is more limited than that of a parent, perhaps that makes the time we spend with them that much more important to do it right. As my g.parents were pretty much not a significant part of my growing up, I really didn’t understand the potential impact until I became a therapist. I have worked with a multitude of children and adults who were grieving at the loss of a grandparent. Some shared memories that were profound. Fortunately for me, this enlightenment occurred prior to me becoming a grandparent. So taking what know about great parenting and adding grand parenting to the mix, I will enumerate a few ideas of great parenting.
1) Be a great role model. This means you may have to improve some shortcomings in order to present yourself as a better person. Examples are a-plenty. Perhaps you grew up to be a semi-selfish man. It is your duty as a good role model to show and teach kindness and generosity to you children. You were a party hardy dude? Now, as a father, you must present yourself as a well controlled man. It may not mean stopping alcohol consumption (etc., etc.), but it may mean no excessive use (and related behaviors) in the proximity of your kids. You got yourself quite a potty-mouth. Who wants their third grade daughter in serious trouble for droppin’ a M-F bomb on her teacher? Clean up your excessive cussin’ and enlarge your vocabulary. In other words, try to become the person you want your child to be.
2) Be your children’s entertainment director. You may only have your kids at home for a measly 20% of your entire life. In this brief period of time, what do you want them to remember about their life with you? Have you taught them checkers? Chess? Old Maid? You like sports? Teach boys and girls how to catch a baseball, shoot some hoops, bowl, play ping pong, etc. They may choose to not love a sport like you do, but at least you gave them some memories of having fun with their Dad.
3) If you have a special talent, expose your kids to it. You like photography? Give them a camera, give some easy instructions and take them out on a few photo excursions with you. BBQ man? Involve the kids on how to do it. Let ‘em burn a few hot dogs, then show them how to do it right. Then show them how to enjoy this culinary delight they created. What if you are a serious beer aficionado? How about teaching your kids the subtle differences between numerous root beers (a true story)? An artist? Who wouldn’t enjoy painting alongside their Dad? Throw in some fun instruction, and you have created an important memory and perhaps future skill for your children.
4) Train yourself that every situation, every event is a teaching moment. Coming in 45 minutes late for curfew is a great opportunity to calmly teach intelligent consequences. Reducing the curfew by 45 minutes for the next weekend is great teaching rather than just “getting even” for breaking the rules. Even though there are times we would like to ship our kids to Mars, intelligent discipline is a huge factor in teaching our kids right from wrong. Conversely, doing a good, age appropriate job deserves fatherly recognition. Always.
5) Take your responsibilities to take care of them seriously. Someone recently reminded me that a great Dad takes his child support seriously, even when it is a huge burden. And for those who have remained married, working as best we can to help provide for them shows them how a great father watches over his family.
This list has far more than five items. I invite everyone who has an idea to add to send me a note with further ideas I can include in the part two of this important subject. You can get me at JohnSommerCounseling@gmail.com
To all fathers and grandfathers, I say this: why settle for good if you can go down in your children’s lives as great? Great rocks.