The analogy of the pilot is a good one. It’s a critical job on any vessel. Our job is to steer, nourish, protect and guide our children so they can sail off into their own horizons. Being a good pilot requires a lot of skills, many of which we don’t realize when we first have children. The turbulence is great, the storms unpredictable, the winds aren’t always at our backs.
So how do we steer the ship of family and help our children succeed?
A few things we’ve found useful
In raising four children between us, we’ve found some things that have proven to be important.
• Knowing thyself. We tried to encourage self-discovery, ask our kids about their beliefs and introduce them to new ideas and talk with them about those ideas.
• Becoming resilient. We felt it was important to teach our children to recover from missteps, setbacks, and difficult circumstances along their way.
• Sniffing out the bull. We tried to help our children avoid misdirection that can happen from the wrong role models or peer pressure.
• Cheering the failures. It can be easy to compliment, cheer, endorse and applaud when things go right. It can be more of a challenge when your kids struggle, miss, lose out, or fail. But in those failures lie learning opportunities. Few of us get anywhere without practice and failure. We think it’s important to encourage children to try and not be fearful of failure.
• Sharing unconditional love. We talk a lot about loving your kids, unconditionally. Let them know it, regardless of the events and circumstances that arise.
• Listening for the voice. Give conversation time to develop. We tried to pay attention to what our children were saying and what they were not saying, to tune in to their nonverbal cues, behavior changes, attitude adjustments, differences in their habits.
• Becoming grateful. Teach your children to appreciate the friends, successes and opportunities they receive and to be aware of and responsive to the challenges others face.
• Seek help. When we weren’t sure what to do, how to react, what to say, we knew it could be time to ask for some help – from mom or from a professional.
Did we always do the right thing? No. But we learned, sometimes slowly, what to do. There is little preparation for being a dad and not a lot of help along the way. That’s why we started the Dads2Dads venture. To share the “wisdom” we gained from stumbling through the thicket of fatherhood.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @dads2dadsllc. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.