From Old Dads to New Dads

06.15.12 Wisdom to guide fathers down the parenting path


Some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever heard has come not from doctors, psychologists, teachers, parenting experts or mothers. It comes from Dads whose kids are grown. Here are some of the gems:

Jim, father of two sons, says, “Raise your kids so you can stand living with them for twenty years and so you’ll enjoy it while you’re raising them.”

We all have our pet peeves and little things we just can’t tolerate yet too many parents are afraid to set limits. Instead, they put up with annoying behaviors and end up feeling cranky and resentful. What I love about Jim’s advice is that you can customize it to fit your family. For example, I can’t stand it when kids interrupt adults or each other so I make sure I don’t interrupt them, I stop them when they interrupt and I praise the heck out of them when I catch them “not interrupting.” My husband is a stickler for good table manners so as soon as they can hold a spoon, he teaches them to behave nicely at the table.

Some families aren’t bothered by interrupting or bad manners, but can’t stand messiness, rudeness, grabbing…whatever. Choose your battles, but guide your parenting so your kids don’t drive you nuts. That helps make the second part of Jim’s advice a lot easier. You’ll enjoy being parents a whole lot more if you’re not mad at your kids.

David, father of one son and one daughter, says: They grow up fast and the good times speed by just as quickly as the bad times. Don’t dwell on the hard stuff when you can dwell on the good stuff instead.

I love this advice. It’s easy to focus on all those sleepless nights, the tantrums, teething, and picky eating, the misplaced homework, the head lice, the bedwetting and all the thankless “joys of parenting” that qualify as bad times. Just deal with them then let them go because if you hold on to the tough stuff and give them more importance than they deserve you’ll miss the good things that happen all the time. For every sleepless night, there will be a cozy morning where you and your baby are wrapped up in a quilt together. For every tantrum there will be a mushy kiss and a sticky hug that will make it all better. For every misplaced piece of homework there will be a brilliant math test. Go ahead and whine all you want about the head lice though…that totally sucks.

Tim, father of four, says, “Being a dad isn’t a spectator sport. Don’t wait to be invited to raise your own children. Get in there and do it. You’ll never regret being an active part of your child’s life, but you’ll always regret it if you don’t.”

Like many fathers, Tim let his wife take the lead with the hands-on parenting while he followed behind. Eventually, however, she resented his lack of involvement and initiative and he resented her bossiness whenever he did anything spontaneous. After a bit of couples counseling, they learned that he really wanted to be more involved, but didn’t want to piss his wife off. She really wanted him to help out more, but didn’t want him to come in and revamp everything after she’d been in charge all week. He felt like she micromanaged him and she felt like he undermined her authority with the kids. They hashed it out and learned how to co-parent duties without stepping on each other’s toes.

Tim says, “I wish I’d gotten in there right from the start so we learned to co-parent together. Instead, I waited for her to tell me what to do, but of course, didn’t want to be told what to do. Once we figured this out, we became a tight little team. My wife got the backup and support she needed and I gained the self-confidence I needed as a parent.”

Adam, father of three daughters says, “Each kid is an individual. Sure they look like your aunt and they act like your father, but they’re not them and they’re not repeating your history. Don’t raise them the way you were raised, but they way they need to be raised.”

So true Adam. Our kids are not mini-me. They’re having lives that are completely different from our own. They are their own people. They’ll carry the history, traits and behaviors passed down through our families’ generations, but they’ll have their own spin, circumstances and experiences. They aren’t destined to be just like their uncle or turn out just like their father. If we respect them as individuals, they’ll turn out to be just like themselves.

Michael, father of two sons says, “Do your best. Some times you’ll be the best parent on earth and some times you won’t. Give yourself a pat on the back on the good days and forgive yourself on the bad ones. Just learn from your mistakes and do better the next time. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. God knows parenting is tough. There are a lot of people who’ve done it before you and if you’re not too proud to ask, they’ll be happy to give you a hand.”

Trevor, father of three, says, “Whenever possible (and it’s always possible), choose kindness over anger, choose to build your children up instead of tearing them down, choose patience, integrity, stability and insight. And always, always choose affection over violence because the one thing they’ll absolutely learn from you is whether or not it’s OK to hit someone.”

Now that’s some wisdom for you. Happy Father’s Day to all the brand new and experienced fathers who will never really know how important you are to the mothers and children who love you.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? Email it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

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