Somethings come with lots of thought. Some come with spontaneous inspiration.
As I set in on fatherhood meeting one day, I heard several speakers address the subject of engaging fathers in their children's lives. At this conference, there were two main demographics:
1) those who want to find ways to get absentee fathers to become more engaged and involved with their children's upbringing and
2) those who want the courts and the legislature in Illinois to allow fathers who have been separated from their children to become more involved
The first group was mostly focusing on the poor, indigent, ex-offenders, those with substance abuse problems, etc. The second group sprouted from mostly divorced fathers and moms who have been denied custody of their children and have found that the way the current statutes and common court practices in Illinois treat noncustodial parents and their children is, well, shameful. All had the common goal of more parental involvement, particularly for fathers and noncustodial parents. It was an ironic situation in some sense. Here you had a group trying desparately to get fathers involved with kids. In the same room was a group of parents (mostly fathers) trying desparately to be allowed
to be involved.
As I pondered the divergent groups with convergent goals, I thought to myself: what makes a good Dad? And, what makes Dads want to be a good Dad? The latter is the most difficult because if you have never had the rewarding experience of being an involved Dad and seen how it can benefit your child's growth and development and experienced the joy, the fun, the pride of seeing this occur, its very difficult to describe.
The former (what makes a good Dad?), well, I'd liked to think that I have some perspective on this. I have fought to be there for my kids. I have never, ever given up on being a father and not just a visitor. So, with that in mind, I though I would share an acronym that came to me at this meeting - pretty much out of the blue: TOUCHES
. It stands for:TIME -
the most important element in fatherhood. Your children will know you love them by your personal presence and by being there for them. And, when there, be involved with them. That leads to the remaining elements of involvement.OBSERVE
- as in watching, listening to what they are saying. Be attentive to how they feel about things. Don't lecture so much as listen.UNDERSTAND
- be tuned in to what you observe and what the child(ren) are saying. Relate what you know and tell them you understand how they feel and show it by listening more.CARE
- show it more than say it. Yes, you need to tell you kids you love them. Yes, you need to tell them you care. But you need to show it, demonstrate it by being there for them, engaging them in discussions and conversation, and by demonstrating you care by....HELPING And HUGGING -
help when asked and offering when help is not asked. Help with homework. Help with problems at school or social problems, help by being there and listening. Once they understand that you care by giving them your time and observing and understanding, they will be more likely to ask for your help. Hug your kids. Let them see that you love them through your affection for them.EDUCATE
- educating, training, teaching (but not lecturing...) all while listening to them. Let them hear what mistakes you have made and how you want them to learn from them. Let them know that you can relate to their problems and the issues they face and can help them get through them. Offer advice but don't force it on them. Know the difference between setting rules and interfering and being overbearing.SMILE
- be fun, have fun, play.... don't be serious all the time. Don't always be the one who administers the discipline. One of the main attributes that fathers have is that they are seen as the "fun" parent by kids. If you have a son, play with him...wrestle, throw the ball, go fishing, play his favorite video game with him, do the things he likes to do. If you have a daughter, play with her (yes, even if she is in to Barbies, etc.). Do some Daddy-Daughter dates. Take her to a chick flick or out to dinner to her favorite restaurant or to a ice cream store.
Those are just a few of the things I have learned in my 17+ years of parenting so far. I hope they are helpful.