Dads, It Doesn't Matter What You Say -- It Matters What You Do

Three Things Every Dad Should Try To Do—Even If It’s Outside Our Comfort Zone

September 2, 2020 Updated October 6, 2020

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I’ve learned a lot interviewing high-performing Dads about their lives on my Dad the Best I Can podcast.

The biggest takeaway is that these aren’t CEOs of hundred million dollar companies, rockstar entrepreneurs, best-selling authors, or professional athletes. When they get home, they’re just Dad.

Here are three tips that I try and remember every day around my own kids:

Remember that your kids are watching every single thing you do.

We’re always telling our kids what they should do.

Eat your broccoli.
Clean up your room.
Stop playing video games!

But, do you ever find yourself telling your kid to “put down the iPad” when at the same time, you’re glued to your phone scrolling Instagram, mindlessly checking email, or watching one more YouTube video?

I think part of the reason it’s so frustrating for me, is because I know I’m being hypocritical.

Marc Bromley, hotel GM, and dad to three kids (ages 9, 7, 3) said, “The times I get most annoyed with my kids are when I’m trying to do something on my phone, and they’re taking me away from it, which is awful, right?”

They say we project our own issues onto other people.

Who knew this applies to how I interact with my six-year-old too? I know I’m on my phone too much — it’s an easy, soothing distraction from reality, so it makes sense that I get worked up when I see my six-year-old unwilling to put down his Nintendo Switch because there’s “one more level” left in his Fortnite game.

Ken Rideout, financial advisor, and dad to four kids (ages 8, 7, 5, 3) says, “Your kids are watching every single thing that you do. If I snap at one of them, inevitably, a day or two later, my wife will tell me that my oldest son said or did the same thing that I did in disciplining someone else.”

I have to remind my kids all the time, that “you’re not the dad,” and while it’s easy to say ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ that goes in one ear and out the other.”

Stop being the tough guy, and really connect with your kids.

Dads, It Doesn't Matter What You Say To Your Kids -- It Matters What You Do
Jihannah Hogge/Reshot

Most of us men have been raised to value these masculine, stoic qualities.

Are those really the main qualities we want our kids to learn from us as they grow up?

It’s more important than ever that we help our kids feel comfortable being emotional and expressing themselves.

Dr. John Duffy, psychologist and dad to one kid (24), says, “My bias, and this is from watching dads with their sons and daughters, is that when they are gentler with their kids, they make a bigger impact and they’re modeling something important. That it’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to feel what you feel. You can still be a guy’s guy, and you can still look forward to the Bears-Packers game tonight, and be a kind, soft, gentle person. That can all fit in the same universe. That’s what I encourage dads to think about now: bring a gentler approach to your parenting. Even if your dad was the iron fist guy, you do not need to be that guy, and you’re going to move further down the line quicker if you choose not to be that guy.”

As men, we’re often most comfortable when we’re fixing things, and when we’re solving problems, but that’s not always what’s best for our kids.

When my kid falls off his scooter, my instinct is to say “brush it off, you’re okay.” But I’m learning that it may be better to say, “Man, that must have hurt, are you okay?” And to let him know that it’s okay to cry and show emotion when you’re hurt.

Jeff Hilimire, CEO of Dragon Army and dad to five kids (ages 15, 13, 10, 9, 7), says, “I think sometimes, either as a man or as a dad, you’re trying to fix everything. My wife has taught me the power of listening and understanding, and not trying to solve everything. When I talk to my son, I try to let him get his feelings out, and if he feels upset, let him feel upset about it. To understand that it’s okay to have feelings and emotions.”

Don’t just stand on the sidelines and watch. Do the things you want your kids to do.

Dads, It Doesn't Matter What You Say To Your Kids -- It Matters What You Do
August de Richelieu/Pexels

I coach my seven-year-old son’s basketball team, and I (mostly) love it, but the other day as we drove past the tennis courts, my son asked “Dad, when do you get to play tennis and play basketball?”

I thought to myself, “You’re right. I’m taking you to practice every day, but I have to make time for me too.”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the routine of parenting — taking our kids to school, to baseball practice, to their friends’ houses — that we lose sight of our own lives.

Dr. Duffy says, “I think we’ve become sidelined in so many ways, and we forget how important modeling is for our kids. Doing the thing, instead of talking about it or coaching it, because our kids need to see that an adult life is a vigorous one. I work with all these kids and they tell me, the most foreboding, awful thing to them is the idea of becoming an adult. Part of that is just watching the model that their parents are giving their kids, that they’re not very happy. We need to get better at modeling an engaged, excited, and vigorous life, just as much as they need to see us on the sideline of their baseball game.”

Being a father today is hard. I’m sure every generation of parents says the same thing, but today we’re contending with iPhones in our pockets, 24/7 news cycles, and perfectly curated social media feeds.

In the history of mankind, has there ever been a generation of dads who have been so involved in their kids’ lives? While also trying to be there for their spouse, build thriving careers, have fun with their friends, and take a little quiet time for themselves?

As a forty-something year-old dad, I found myself swimming in uncharted waters. Our fathers didn’t share with us. And our grandfathers certainly didn’t share with them. But today, oversharing is practically an Olympic sport.

So why can’t we have honest conversations about what it means to be a dad today?

Hopefully, this post helps open up the conversations you have with your friends, colleagues, and other dads in your life. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

 

Rob Roseman’s book can be found here, and is a great read (or gift) for any Dad.