A guest post for father’s day:
Cat Williams is a relationship counsellor who qualified with the renowned UK charity, Relate, in 2007. She is also a British army wife and mother of two. ‘Stay Calm and Content’ is her newly released book. It was suggested by her clients and explains the ‘secret’ behind staying calm and content, no matter what life throws at you. It is available via her site or on Amazon.
I don’t often take guest posts, but Cat and I have chatted on twitter and our blogs for a bit, and as I write ‘for mums’ rather than Dads, I thought that her post was a great idea. I’d like to also mention a post over at Spencer’s about the furor about TV Dad’s putting real life Dads in a bad light. I so agree with what he wrote, but didn’t write it because I’m a mum!
So over to Cat …..
Tricky For Dads
As a relationship counsellor I have come across many couples who, as well as struggling in their couple relationship, are also struggling in their relationship with their children. It is often fathers in particular who find it difficult to build a close relationship with their children, or who find that relationship difficult to maintain as their children grow up.
Here are my thoughts and ‘tips’ on what it means to be a great Dad, and to build a great relationship.
Feeling Listened To
The main thing to remember is that children of any age (and their parents) want to feel listened to, understood, respected, and loved. The key word here is feel, we might know we love our children, but if they don’t feel it then that love is almost pointless from their point of view.
(update from Lisa: Check out this post on how to make them feel listened to)
A good dad realises the great power and influence he has over his child’s self-esteem (a combination of self-confidence and self-worth), and that his child also influences how he feels about himself as a father.
(Update from Lisa: Check out this post on how to get your kids to do what you need them to do)
“fear makes strangers of people who should be friends” – Shirley MacLaine
If we (whether adult or child) feel unloved, disrespected, or not good enough in some way, then this is a threat to our well-being, and therefore our brain triggers our physiological ‘fight or flight’ response. Our heart beats faster, we feel twitchy, or our stomach feels unsettled, and we describe this as feeling ‘negative emotions’ such as anger, annoyance, stress or fear.
If we are unaware that threats to our self-esteem cause our negative emotions, then we will also be unaware that our subsequent actions are attempts to protect or repair our self-esteem. We feel defensive and we do what makes ourselves feel better in some way; maybe criticise or judge each other and end up arguing, or stop speaking to one another, and then both think “I don’t know how it got like this, why can’t we get along?”
‘Tell me how a person judges his or her self-esteem and I will tell you how that person operates at work, in love, in sex, in parenting, in every important aspect of existence – and how high he or she is likely to rise. The reputation you have with yourself – your self-esteem – is the single most important factor for a fulfilling life.’ – Nathanial Branden
Children are usually fully aware of their parent’s expectations, and whether they are considered ‘good enough’. Many of us go through life feeling in the shadow of an ambitious father or mother; or aiming to live up to our parents’ investment of hope, time, and money. We usually have a natural desire to please our parents, if we can, and it may bring us happiness to achieve what they want for us, but what if we realise one-day that we cannot achieve our parents’ expectations, or that we want something different?
Ten Top Tips
1) Your Expectations
Look at where your expectations for your child come from; your parents, friends, ‘society’? How do you define ‘happy’ and ‘successful’? Why do you define them that way?
2) Ask them
Ask your child how they define happy and successful, and whether they are achieving what they would like for themselves.
3) Accept them as they are
Help your child with their self-esteem and self-belief by accepting them as they are; asking for and listening carefully to their feelings and opinions; and encouraging them to find their own way of achieving their goals.
4) Your Own Self-Esteem
Set a good example by working on your own self-esteem; make time for things which will help you to feel confident and positive about yourself as a parent e.g. exercise, time with loved ones, enjoying a hobby etc.
5) Quality Time
Make it a priority to find positive ways to spend time with your son or daughter, doing something they, or you both, enjoy.
6) Their Friends
Show your child that you accept and value their friends, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, children, etc by being open-minded and getting to know these people as individuals. Even if you don’t like your child’s friends, for example, there is a reason why your child does; these friends will be helping your child’s self esteem in some way.
7) Cut The Criticism
Give encouragement and praise to yourself, and others, rather than being critical. We all behave in ways which make sense to us as individuals at the time, this doesn’t justify ‘negative’ behaviour, but it does explain it. It has been said that ‘children need love most when they deserve it least’, and this is true, showing understanding and giving encouragement is much more effective than being critical.
Praise is like sunshine to the human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it – Jess Lair.
8) Show them your love
Tell and show your children, partner and family that you love them. This is the most likely way that you will receive the same in return. Find out from www.5lovelanguages.com what makes each of you feel most loved, and then act on it.
(Update from Lisa: here is a post about the 5 languages of love)
Be a role model: speak daily about your thoughts, fears, frustrations, and weaknesses. Demonstrating the self-confidence to speak openly about your own feelings, to apologise for your mistakes, and to listen to the feelings of others, even if they are different from yours, will help to build understanding, respect, love, and a positive relationship.
“How sad that man would base an entire civilization on the principle of paternity, upon legal ownership and presumed responsibility for children, and then never really get to know their sons and daughters very well” – Phyllis Chesler.
10) HAVE FUN!
Don’t forget to have fun! Most of us parents are probably too serious a lot of the time. Try to see the world through the eyes of your children, everything can feel new, interesting and fun if we approach it the right way, take every opportunity to try new things, laugh, giggle, and find the joy in every day life, even when it seems an up hill struggle.
What do you think about Cat’s tips?
Have you read my post on ‘How to be a good mum‘? It takes a slightly different tack.