I read this story of fathering reinvention written by Ninja Dad and blogger Malcolm Dix.
I just had to share it with you. Malcolm (AKA Ninja Dad) writes:
Recently my fifteen-year-old daughter commented on how “differently” I “do things” with her four-year-old brother compared to the way I parented her when she was the same age
At first I thought it couldn’t be that different, but upon reflection I realised she is absolutely right. The ‘Old Dad’ that still lurks inside me is very different to the current version. In fact if they were to meet at a party, I think each would consider the other somewhat weird.
Specifically, the ‘Old Dad’ (OD) did seven things he no longer does:
1. Old Dad would happily let his kids watch TV and play computer games before school.
OD’s excuse: But they enjoy it and it allows me to do other things in the morning … doh!
Result: They weren’t physically active or engaged in reading books, etc. The research now clearly indicates this didn’t help prepare their wee brains for the exciting days ahead at school.
2. Occasionally OD used to send his kids to school if they were a little bit sick or had one or two nits.
OD’s excuse: Yeah but I drugged them up to their eye balls and I got most of the little critters out of her hair and hey, I had an important meeting that day … doh!
Result: Other kids got sick, my child didn’t get better and I had to take more time off work anyway.
3. OD would sometimes complete his kid’s homework if they were struggling or running out of time.
OD’s excuse: Yeah but I was just trying to help and by crikey, no child of mine is going to fail primary school … doh!
Result: Teachers could never accurately gauge how my kids were doing. My kids never learnt from the consequences for their lack of organisational and time-management skills. Furthermore it gave them the message that when push came to shove, Dad would save the day at the last minute.
4. OD never minded his children being late for school.
OD’s excuse: Oh what does it matter if they’re a little bit late, they’re only little after all … doh!
Result: My kids missed out on crucial social interactions with their friends as well as the opportunity to develop and settle into a regular routine before their day of learning. (Now that my eldest two are both at high school, I’ve discovered that this is even more important as being at school early allows them time to prepare themselves properly for their day – go to their lockers, check their timetables, select the right books, etc.)
5. OD would carry his kids’ school bags to and from school and regularly help unpack their bag at class … even when they were old enough to do it themselves.
OD’s excuse: The poor things – their bags are so heavy and they might hurt themselves, and I just want to be an involved dad … doh!
Result: I denied them the perfect opportunity to start developing their organisational and self-management skills at an early age, which would have helped them on their way to becoming confident, independent and resilient kids.
Today, my four-year-old carries his own bag to kindy and firmly informs me that he “can do it” if I even offer to help him unpack it. It’s second nature to him.
6. OD often allowed his older children to stay up late on school nights watching TV. Also as my daughter got older, I would let her take her phone to bed.
OD’s excuse: It’s their favourite TV show and surely she knows she has to turn the phone off at bedtime … doh!
Result: They were tired, distracted and never developed a good bedtime routine. Also, I discovered later that my daughter’s friends would text her after bedtime and epic conversations of teenage proportions would continue well into the night.
Today, my fifteen- and twelve-year-olds hand in their phones and iPads (now compulsory for school) each night before they go to bed without any problem at all.
7. OD would make my eldest kids’ lunches.
OD’s excuse: It’s quicker and easier if I do it. They’re too little. Oh and I nearly cut my thumb off when I was five … doh!
Result: They often wouldn’t eat what I gave them. (They had no ownership over what was in their lunchbox.) More crucially, I never gave them the chance to develop basic life skills such as preparing simple meals, thereby learning independence and responsibility.
Today, my partner and I get our four-year-old to help make and pack his own lunch, a ‘task’ he loves doing and he often dictates the contents of his lunchbox (which nearly always comes home empty). ‘Old Dad’ would never have contemplated doing that.
So as you can see, it’s taken ‘Old Dad’ a while to change. He thought he was doing the right thing by his kids, but he was actually denying them a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn – and have fun doing it!
Today it’s safe to say that my four-year-old (and even his two-year-old brother) is already significantly more capable, independent and resilient than his older siblings were at a similar age (albeit through no fault of their own) and I love it.
Thankfully, the last few years have seen my older kids become much more independent.
Sometimes doing less as a parent, really is doing more for your kids. Pity "Old Dad' never knew that back in his day.
Thankfully, his modern day equivalent is slowly figuring things out. Now, if I could just work out a way of retrieving my hair from Old Dad.
Malcolm Dix (AKA Ninja Dad) is a father of four, speaker, MC and corporate comedian. You can read his weekly Ninja Dad Blog at www.malcolmdix.com
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