What does it mean to be an effective dad?
Does it mean that you need to be handling all situations manly? Or Does it mean that you need to be friends with your kid? These are some of the questions that cropped in my head when I first came across this sentence. It is pretty obvious that we need to be a person our kids can look up to. However, being an effective dad is perhaps going deeper into the very meaning of this phrase.
One study found that feeling loved by Dad was even more important for their well-being, happiness, and satisfaction towards life than feeling loved by Mom. And it is true in every sense of the word. When my 4-year old daughter calls me to say how much she misses me when I am not there, just nails the point right in. She knows that her Dad loves her much and when he is around she can be happy and feel loved by the only man in her life right now. Of course, feeling loved by her Mom is just as important but not getting loved by the only man she has been seeing since she opened her eyes for the first time can be terrible.
Often times when I have been busy and not being able to fulfill her demands to play or do some activity, Anika has been crestfallen with a sad little face, until I go up to her and hold her.
Effective Dad listens to their kids
Perhaps one of the most effective ways to show your child how much you love them is to listen to them. Yes, it may sound absurd to some of us but I cannot be far from the truth. There are ways to listen to your kids and it certainly does not mean that they can steamroll over you. It just means that be more attentive to what your kid has to say.
When my daughter wants to speak to me. Most often she just barges into a conversation I will be having with my wife. Even though your first reaction is to glare at her or scold. I have been practicing to control and divert my attention to Anika. She might not have anything relevant to say but nonetheless, it is my duty to listen to her. Once she finishes her chat, I use some of the flipping techniques to turn around the conversation.
You can learn more about flipping sentences by reading all about the most powerful word
I just tell her, “Honey, I heard what you said, however, your mom and I discussing something important so let me finish with her and then I will come back to you.” This sentence may sound too long for a 4-year old to comprehend but trust me these 21st-century kids can understand more than what we can imagine. Most often after explaining to Anika, she does quite down and wait for her turn.
Does turning around sentences or making kids wait their turn show effective listening?
Yes, it certainly does. Once you heard your kid by letting them finish what they had to say. This showed that their Dad listened to them. Since the initial ask has been fulfilled, post that whatever you say will be agreeable.
In the same scenario if you had reacted negatively by asking them to wait their turn or simply scolded them. They would have mentally deducted a point for you inside their head. Their brains will register the thought that this guy does not want to listen to them so why should we listen. And if you see the reality, when you turn away your kid abruptly more often than not voices are raised from both the parties and tantrums start.
So if you want to be an attentive listener and in turn show your love by being an effective dad. You need to practice the art of listening and reacting.
Have a very close relationship with your kid
I think this does not need too much explaining as it is self-explanatory. Whether you are Mom or Dad having a close relationship with your kid is quite important. We do see that opposite sex make for a closer relation. Like Anika and I are perhaps closer in terms of her sharing info and feelings with me than her Mom. Same can be said for boys who may be closer to their Moms.
Either way, we need to get into the habit of cultivating a relationship. Reaffirming who is Dad or boss of the house is not the best way to go about it. Yeah, when we were kids perhaps we got only chappals for our efforts at being closer to our parents. But that does not mean that you need to repeat the same mistake.
How can we start a conversation with a kid?
What I do is to talk more with Anika. Not just goofy baby speak, which incidentally I did when she was 1-2 year old but more of a grown up conversation. Since I drop and pick her from school it becomes little easier to speak to her. I always make it a habit of asking her day in school. When she first joined her school, I always used to ask her whom she made friends with every day. More often than not she would share some names. That is the beginning of a close relation. She realizes that this guy not only wants to listen but also wants to know what I have been doing.
And as we all know, sharing makes for a very effective communication between two human beings. And good communication is the basis of a healthy relationship.
Give them freedom when it makes sense
Now I have shared two every important way we can be an effective dad but it certainly does not mean that you are giving your kid complete freedom. After all, you need to hold them back or stop them when it is required. But giving them the necessary freedom when it makes sense is even more important.
Take the example of when Anika wanted to start cycling. We got her a bicycle with support wheels. She was tall enough back then to reach down to the pedals. Every weekend she would want to take the cycle outside to ride near our house. Now at this time, it made sense to just let her learn by herself about pedaling and directions because it would not harm her or anyone else. At the same time when she wants to go and cycle on the bylanes where there is traffic, I will always hold onto to the cycle from the back. Still, I would have given her the freedom o ride where she wanted but at the same time I could control her movements.
In the same manner for other tasks that your kid wants to perform, do see how much freedom is really required. Let us not be at the either extreme of the graph.
Set appropriate rules that make sense to kids
Setting rules or boundaries is just as important as having a loving relationship. If you do not set some ground rules then your kid will not really know the difference between playing and seriousness. Of course, these rules need to make sense both for your kid and you. We cannot have a rule asking them not to use their hands while eating but at the same time, we can have rules of washing their hands before touching food.
Anika always knows that when she is back from school, she needs to take off her shoes and put them on the rack. Now, this rule was not drilled into her but rather after seeing that I always put my shoes in the shoe rack after coming home. She naturally developed the same skill and thus it became a norm.
So as parents we need to understand what is good for our kid and what is not, accordingly we should set some rules either by speaking about it or doing ourselves. Case in point keeping things back to where they belong. More often than not we are always lazy about putting that pen back into the holder after using it. Now when our kid also does not put it back, we cannot be shouting at them asking to be disciplined. As they say, “Monkey see is what monkey do.”
Is there a danger of rejecting our kid’s demands?
There is no danger of rejecting their demands but it totally depends on how you are rejecting and how often. Are we giving them good reasons for rejecting something? At the end of the day when kids feel they are being rejected or unloved by their parents, those kids are most likely to be aggressive and hostile towards others. In some extreme cases, they can be emotionally unstable.
So to be an effective dad you don’t need to accept everything but learn to reject with reason and options. After all, all the love that a kid can get from their Dad’s does matter.
Share with us how you have been trying to be an effective dad or do you feel the need to be one?