So you are a dad. These days there is a new definition of father surfacing. Words are starting to take on different meaning. For proof, just ask Siri. What is the definition of respect?
“A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements and to regard the feelings, wishes or rights of others.”
Go ahead and check.
For years parents confused respect to mean that we should be loved, listened to and obeyed no matter what kind of a jerk we were behaving like! Now that’s entitlement. It also meant that we were feared. Who wants their kids to be afraid of them?
If you were fortunate enough to have a loving and emotionally available father, chances are you respected and trusted him. You knew he had your back and that he understood you. You have an internal guidance system because of this.
If this wasn’t your experience, parenting might be confusing. There will be times when you second guess yourself and resort to “the old” ways. Going into the angry-dad mode feels good for a moment until you see your kids or partner’s pain. This doesn’t feel awesome.
Give yourself compassion. Chances are, you are treading on some new territory in the feelings department. You might even be sharing your feelings in a way that you haven’t before. It turns out that doing so doesn’t make you weak, it makes you relatable, real and comfortable to be around. You aren’t dismissing your own feelings or those of your kids, you’re listening. Being present like this is bold considering the old messages told you that feelings are dangerous.
A child’s greatest learning comes from simply seeing how you show up in the world. Men are highly capable of nurturing children even though they don’t have the tattas to breastfeed. How you guide may be slightly different than the old discipline approach of using reward, punishment and a dash of shame. Your guidance, which could be called discipling, is in your ability to practice self-discipline. While this puts a little pressure on you, it’s also quite liberating because this means you get to grow, be who you truly are and possibly enjoy parenting more. You aren’t the dreaded father walking in the door to discipline kids. You live up to today’s definition of dad: kind, strong, vulnerable, available and courageous.
LIFE Seminars has two books available, Sidestepping the Power Struggle and The Parent Child Connection. See lifeseminars.com.