Without fail, whenever I happen to be in the company of a father of older daughters who clearly still have and cherish a loving relationship with him, I plead for him to give me something, one nugget of wisdom as to how he did and continues to do it. I routinely seek out this kind of parenting intel because I’m nowhere near the finished article as a dad (or husband, or man, or human), and so I listen to and talk with dads old and new to get their unique take on being a parent. I learn something nearly every time.
In November of 2015, I sat down with Heisman Trophy-winning NFL All-Pro Quarterback Carson Palmer in his Scottsdale, Arizona, home, minutes before a camera crew stole him and his kids away to film his outstanding #RealStrength Highlight Reels Dove Men+Care commercial, to talk about fatherhood, raising daughters and continuously learning on the job—on and off the field. I learned a lot in those 25 minutes, and I think I came away with more tidbits of sage advice that will help me improve as a dad.
Here are 10 parenting lessons from Arizona Cardinals quarterback and dad of three (soon to be four!), Carson Palmer:
1. Opportunities to learn and grow as a person are everywhere, but failure is the greatest teacher of them all. The challenge we have as parents is turning our children’s negative moments into positive experiences, if not in the present when the scars still smart and the blisters have yet to heal, then in playing the long game.
2. Learn from parents who’ve already done it well, even if that means listening to your in-laws. I kid, because Carson has drawn a lot of parenting inspiration from not only his only dad but his father-in-law too. In other words, don’t be afraid to ask other dads for advice or to share a story from the trenches that may enlighten or be relevant to your experiences as a father. The mom and/or dad of the significant other whom you love, respect and are raising children with could be a fountain of knowledge. After all, they brought the love of your life into the world!
3. If your kiddo asks you to make one of your super special, lightning fast paper airplanes, you make it, regardless of whether or not you’re in the middle of an interview with a slightly nervous dad blogger currently sitting on the oversized brown leather couch in your office.
4. Teach your kids to care for others through volunteerism, charitable giving, and personal sacrifice (of time, money, etc.). So many people have less than we do, so make the decision that you are going to put a premium on finding opportunities as a parent to show your kids the importance of caring for and about those in your community who need assistance.
5. Embrace your new role as a dad, even if that’s a role you could never have imagined in your youth. Meaning, if your daughter says you’re a better brusher of her hair than her other parent, you brush that hair whenever she needs it brushed and you enjoy every second of that time together because you know those moments are fleeting.
6. Never think you have this parenting thing down. Keep listening, communicating, teaching and learning. Hubris has no place in the life of a parent.
7. Don’t judge other parents or their kids, because we’ve all got struggles, baggage, past experiences and present day hardships that no one else can see or has the context to understand. Stay focused on your own business, and instead of casting judgment, try to help others, whether that’s a fellow parent or your child’s classmate, whenever you can.
8. No matter if you have sons or daughters, parent to your child and not to a stereotype. Boys and girls both are capable of far more than the box we often put them inside.
9. Having kids, especially girls, can soften you as a dad. Be open to your kids changing who you are in a positive way. Again, we’re all still evolving as parents and as people.
10. Be an example of the adult you’d like your child to become as well as the kind of grown-up person you hope they’ll surround themselves with as an adult.
Whether your team has already been knocked out of the NFL playoffs or you are a neutral football agnostic, I encourage you to cheer on Carson Palmer and his Cardinals, because in doing so you’ll be rooting for an actively involved parent who has fully embraced his role as dad and works every bit as hard on it as he does in his role of professional quarterback.
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