This week I was fortunate enough to witness a father’s love for his child and how that love inspired the child to achieve more than ever before. How beautiful to see the look of security and self-pride in the eyes of this child as his father gave gentle and loving encouragement, believing wholeheartedly in the child. It was not a case of an amazing feat of fatherly love like that of Dick Hoyt to his son Rick. (If you haven’t seen the tribute to Rick and Dick Hoyt, just go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flRvsO8m_KI and watch this inspirational video). But this is not the kind of fatherly act I am talking about today.
Today, I want to focus on the importance of ‘fathers’ to their children and the small and seemingly insignificant acts of love and encouragement a father can give to his child.
From speaking with so many parents over the years, it is evident that many, many mothers and fathers completely underestimate the importance of the father’s role as parent. It’s like possessing the most effective tool and shoving into a cupboard and never using it. Then wondering why the task is so difficult.
Most fathers do love their children. That is true.
But if that is true, then why is it that when you ask children do they believe their father loves them, many, (and I mean too many), will answer no?
This perception of not being loved by their father has such far-reaching effects on the development of the child. Nothing else can replace it for the child. Not the extra love of a mother, or even grandparents.
So if fathers do love their children, then why do so many children think that they don’t?
This is what I want to address today as we approach Father’s Day in the USA.
You have most probably heard that a person’s perception of a situation is ‘their reality’. Well, so it is for children. A father may love their child immensely, but if that child cannot perceive that love, then that child’s reality is that their father does not love them.
So let’s just assume that the love exists. So now, how can fathers ensure that their children are able to detect that love, find evidence of that love and perceive that love. How can a father convey their love to their children in ways that really make a difference to the child and how they see themselves.
Well, here’s some things for fathers to remember, why it is so important and how you can take various opportunities to demonstrate your love for your child:
- Your child’s world is dominated by how he thinks you see him/her.
Children formulate ideas about who they are, based on the feedback that they get from you. They look to you to understand what kind of person, they themselves are.
What to do:
- Give your child feedback that is positive. Look for the positive. Too often they get to hear what they have done wrong.
- Tell them what you like about them.
- Tell them the ways in which they remind you of yourself at their age.
- Tell them the ways in which they remind you of their mother (in a good way).
- Tell them when you feel pride in them. Emphasize that you are proud of their efforts…not only their achievements.
- In your child’s presence boast about them to other people.
- Your child will do a lot of things to have your approval.
If you make it very clear to a child when you are happy with them and why, they will feel very good. They will be motivated to get that ‘good feeling’ all the time. This is such a powerful tool that you can use to help your child to mature confidently, because when a child is praised and recognized they will internalize that good feeling and they will begin to strive against their desire to play all the time, to actually do the things that you want them to.
What to do:
- Decide what you expect from your child.
- Be aware of your own expectations, so you can communicate them clearly to your child.
- Then when there is anything at all to praise…PRAISE it.
- Notice if they do something right. Let them know you noticed. If it’s a big deal, you can reward it even.
- After you have established an environment where your child is aware of your expectations and can anticipate your approval, you don’t always have to find words. Sometimes a thumbs up and a huge smile is enough. A wink and a nod at the child when they are looking at you to see your reaction to their effort or achievement can be so powerful.
- You may not know this, but each thing that is quite small to you…it may simply be that you wanted your son to put his bike in a certain place every evening and he is not always diligent with this. Well on the occasion that he does put it in the right place….he does so with a huge feeling of anticipation about how impressed you are going to be. But sometimes we parents come home and see the bike in the correct place … and think…yes, that’s how it should be. We miss the opportunity to appreciate that from the minute the child put the bike there, he is anticipating your positive reaction, recognition and approval.
OK, so you get the idea.
Here are some more things your child wants from their father and how you can help your child to perceive your love for them.
- Look them in the eyes when you talk to them.
- Let them know you like them
- Don’t just hug them….cuddle them. If you don’t know what that means, then that’s sad, so look it up.
- Talk to them about yourself. Talk about now and also when you were a boy and what you think about things.
- Talk about your feelings to your children.
- Tell them how you feel about them.
- Set a good example all the time because they are definitely going to model themselves on you…. and they are watching to see how you handle things, both good and bad.
- Top up their emotional security every hour or so with a look, a pat, a hug, a simple ‘are you ok?’
- Your child wants to be recognized by you for every little positive thing they do.
So Fathers this Father’s Day stop and notice how hungry your children are for your love. Look into their eyes and down into the core of their being. Remember the first time you ever saw them and how tiny and helpless they were. Appreciate how important you are to them and how they need you to love them in ways that make them ‘feel loved’.
Read the messages your child writes to you on Father’s Day and have an emotion about it. You need to let them see that they can move you emotionally.
Fathers, your children need to know that they are as important to you…..as you are to them!
TalkBack to me. Share your fathering experiences with other fathers. Mothers too! Is there anything you want Fathers to know about their kids? Let’s get some discussion on this topic.
Here’s to your child’s happiness and security.