Tips and Tools
By Robert Bohen
1. Be real. Be vulnerable. You are a human being making life up as you go. You have no manual on living profoundly or raising great kids. Let them know you are capable of bad decisions just like anyone else. If you are reasonable, they are reasonable. Apologize when you mess up and clean up your mess. You will teach them competence and to accept their own humanity. Interview them. Ask them how you can be a better dad, you will be surprised, and grow from it.
2. Make time. There is no such thing as quality time; there is only time. Money is replaceable, time is not. There will be more work, but you won’t always have the chance to be with your kids. Are there ways to include them in what you do or chores around the house? Your kids will know if they matter to you by the effort you make to include them in your life.
3. Use positive forms of discipline: Punishment creates fear and resentment and is not very effective. It tends to create a legacy of the very behavior a father seeks to eliminate. Be like Nature, which is neither cruel nor kind; Nature is merely indifferent. Use natural and logical consequences instead. If you don’t pick up the clothes, they get put in a bag and remain unwashed, or toys are taken away for awhile. Give a kid choices, positive discipline helps engender responsibility, punishment engenders resentment and dislike.
4. Make love happen by having a great relationship with your wife, friends and relatives. You are the main role model for your kids to make love happen. You are the source of information how to have a close relationship with a future mate.
5. Be aware of your kids lives. Be friends with their friends. It makes it “cool” to be friends with you. How much do you really know about your kids? Their friends will teach you who they are by whom they associate with. Do you know their friends names?
6. Make your home the place to “be.” So what if it gets wrecked by a legion of kids and they eat you out of house and home. Have your home be the “safe harbor” for their friends. The rewards are infinite and you know where they are, and you get to be with them as they grow up.
7. Are you aware of their hopes and dreams? Do you know what inspires them? Give them resources to facilitate their burgeoning talents. Nurture them in these areas and encourage them when they want to quit. The world is full of talented adults whose parents “stuck it out”.
8. Be nurturing with your kids. Hug and kiss your kids, let them hear plenty of “I love you’s.” And also don’t forget to wrestle with them. Both boys and girls benefit from wrestling with their dads. Kids need to see your “soft” side, so show it to them frequently. Do everything to always attend their events, no matter how trivial.
9. See your kids as capable. Get their input on things, you may be surprised. A great way to damage character is to see your kids as “not good enough.” Your kids will feel this, and they will live up to these expectations. The more you approve of them, the more they will approve of themselves.
10. Be present to your kids. Have an “open door” policy. Stop doing whatever you are doing and look your kids in the eye when they talk to you. Be aware of your own tendency to “filter” what your kids say. Embrace their maturity and point of view. Repeat back what you heard from them. If you want them to listen in life, you’ve got to teach them how to listen.
11. A poor relationship with your own father or mother can affect your ability to be an effective father. Are there things you want to say to your father or mother? Ultimately, forgiveness will go a long way towards allowing you to father to the best of your ability.
12. Take care of yourself. How can a kid take care of themselves later in life if you cannot take care of you? It’s difficult to be kind and nurturing if you’re not kind and nurturing to yourself. Don’t teach that love is martyrdom; that is dysfunctional love. Make sure that your wife does the same for her. Find ways for you (and her) to take the time to relax, exercise, and keep your stress levels low. Use friends and family to support you—don’t become an “island”. Your kids will ultimately emulate you.
13. Always keep your wits about you. Hurt people, hurt people. Have a plan for your anger. Often your anger breeds anger in your kids and the vicious cycle continues. Learn techniques that help to defuse anger. Always clean it up, and fast, if you ever lose your cool. Remember that one bad episode can impact your kids for a long time.
Robert T. Bohen is helping to create the new Orange County/Los Angeles Fathering Forum Team. Reach him at Robert@Bohen.net or 949-589-7841