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Dads2dads: Getting ready to listen to children

Tom Tozer and Bill Black • Updated Jul 2, 2017 at 6:00 PM

In many of our interviews with fathers, some themes emerge over and over. One common confession of dads – including us – is that we are wired to fix things. We’re both old enough now to admit some shortcomings without being embarrassed. In regards to his daughters when they were younger, Tom fancied himself the Great Fixer. One of his daughters would share a problem she was having at school, perhaps with a classmate or a teacher, and Tom would jump on his faithful steed and gallop to school to confront the principal. Whatever the issue, whether his daughters were experiencing catty rivalries in landing the lead role in the class play or catching the eye of Mr. Right, ol’ dad would reach into his saddlebag, grab the appropriate tool and ride off to save the day.

A cereal killer

The irony is rich. More times than not, Tom’s daughters did not want Super-repairman. Tom, quite literally and often figuratively, couldn’t fix anything. He would try of course, only to be forced to call a real Mr. Fix-it or seek help from his wife. How can his daughters forget when their father put his foot through the living room ceiling, one that was covered with popcorn-textured plaster? Instantly Tom concocted a mixture of paste and Grape Nuts and thought he could mask the hole beyond detection. It was one of his creative masterpieces that snapped, crackled and flopped – to metaphorically mix cereal brands. This was a dad who hailed himself as the Great Fixer.

What children teach dad

Truth be known, his daughters only wanted their dad to listen, to offer an understanding or sympathetic ear. They shared their problems with him – not looking for him to fix anything – but only to be an impartial and nonjudgmental sounding board. That’s what we heard from many fathers. “What was one major lesson your children taught you?” It could have been a choral response – To Listen. Obviously, dad, you grew them toward maturity. They wanted to handle the situation and try to make repairs on their own. 

Fix your drippy faucet

Dad, when your children are very young, you need to have your toolbox ready. There will be times when you’ll need to be a fixer-upper. However, it won’t be long until you realize that your children will have crossed that threshold from total dependence to beginner’s independence. You’ll need to discern that transformation and honor it. If you insist on coming to the rescue every time, eventually your son or daughter will stop sharing personal problems with you for fear that you’ll step inside their arena and fight all their fights for them. That could be humiliating for them.

Dad, you can never lose if you choose to listen. Just listen to your kids. If they need you to run interference, they will let you know. We repeat – they will let you know. 

Stick to fixing faucets and patching ceilings, if you know how. Or, Mr. Fix-It, ask for help.

Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book, “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @dads2dadsllc. Contact them at tomandbill@dads2dadsllc.com.

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