Small stay calm and content

Guest Post – Ten Tips On How To Be A Great Dad

Small stay calm and content
Small stay calm and content

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


The big hairy northern one
What is Daddy wearing?

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 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)

9) Mentoring 

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.


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.



Is it possible to have romance and kids?

One Thing I’m Totally Sure Of Is: Everyone wants to feel loved

One Thing I Am TOTALLY sure of is that ..

Everyone wants to be loved just as they are.

We don’t want to be loved, despite our less attractive bits.  We want to to be totally and unconditionally loved.  This is true of us all, from the poorest to the richest, from the kindest to the maniacs.

Ironically, a lot of our less attractive behaviour comes from this one truth, because our brain kind of mixes up what ‘Love’ is an what it feels like.

Let me do some science, (but don’t expect scientific language for me, and feel free to add it if you would like to).

This is how our brains work generally ….

  1. Something happened.  Hmmm, I wonder what I thought about it.  Yep, this is my view/perspective/judgment of it.  Right let’s store it under this category.
  2. Something else happened.  Hmmm, it’s a bit like the last thing, but not quite the same.  So let’s store it in the same place out of laziness because it’s sort of the same.
  3. Lots more things get stored in the same category.
  4. Several months later, something else hardly the same at all happens, but by then we’ve forgotten the first thing, so it appears to match the same category.

Get it?

So, a child child looking to feel more loved over a period of time can put these thoughts together: ‘I feel loved when my Mum gives me attention’ -> ‘When my mum looks at me she is giving me attention’ -> ‘Hmm, Mum is ignoring me, but if I do something naughty she will look at me and give me attention’ -> ‘Result, she shouted at me’!

Of course, there are other reasons for unpleasant or unsociable behaviour, after all some people just like being irritating etc, we don’t just want to be loved, we do want other things too which give us a pay off that we like.  But it’s always worth wondering what’s going on in your child’s head when they behave in a way which just doesn’t make sense.  Especially if the way that they react is quite extreme.  You’ll probably be able to ask them what it’s all about, if you wait until they have calmed down.

How do we make people feel loved?

So the next question is how on earth do we make people feel loved, because it’s not as easy at is seems?  I bet there are times that you’re loved ones don’t feel totally loved.  If you don’t believe me, ask them (I’m going to do another post about Curly Headed Boy soon, to show you that you aren’t the only one).

There are two sides to it:

  1. Really getting to know them so that you know what makes them tick, and what makes them feel cared for.
  2. Learning how to see them totally, and loving them just as they are.  It’s about aiming to love them totally including the ‘less attractive’ bits, rather than what we normally do, which is to love them despite those bits.

I can show you how to do understand what makes your loved ones tick (1) quite easily, and if you put a bit of effort in, then you can definitely do it.  Some of us naturally know what is important to our loved ones, but it’s much more likely that you don’t and just assumed that you did.

Loving people unconditionally (2) is more difficult, because it’s not about being infatuated/in love with them; it’s about unconditional love which is quite illusive.  I think that Mums often (but not always) feel this naturally for their children.  But eventually the stresses of life make it more and more difficult to love our children’s ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parts, without wishing there was less of the ‘bad’.  I learnt how to get to the point of totally someone or something by learning the Demartini Method from Dr John F Demartini (I’m one of the few Senior Certified facilitators globally).  I’ll post some blogs about it over the coming months in ways that will be really applicable to your lives; but to truly learn it, you really need to do a course, or go to a facilitator for a 1to1 session, it’s just one of those things that needs more than a blog post to learn in full.  There is a book if you are interested though, called ‘The Breakthrough Experience’.

So how to get to know someone better?

First find out more about them and their values/priorities, you’ll be surprised what you don’t know about your loved ones.  These questions will help and if you want more info then you can read Dr John F Demartini’s book ‘The Heart of Love’ where he shows the full Twelve Demartini Evaluation Method questions:

  • What do they tend to spend their time doing?  Why do they like it?
  • What do they like the house to be like?  Why?
  • What do they like to spend their money on? Why?
  • Who do they like being around.  Why?
  • Then try actually asking them!

What Makes Them Feel Loved?

I’ve found a book by a guy called Gary Chapman called ‘The 5 Love Languages’ to be very helpful with this on top of what I learnt about values from Demartini (he’s also written a pile of others and one for kids, but be warned he is very christian which might be off putting for some of you, and it shows up more in the other books).  He says that most people favour one or two of the five which are (I’ve translated them a bit):

  1. Compliments
  2. Quality Time/Conversation
  3. Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

The problem with these 5 options is that, if you don’t know your loved one very well, you could say the wrong things, buy the wrong things, do the wrong things, talk about the wrong things, and even touch them wrong!  That’s why it needs to be combined with the more practical general understanding from the first questions.  (If you want to see an example, I wrote a more specific post called ‘what to do if your wife won’t sleep with you‘).

So why am I writing about this?  Well someone popped me an email about their grand-daughter, and it was spookily similar to some problems that I’ve been having with Curly Headed Boy, but before I could launch into a blog post to answer it I needed to do some background stuff first … keep watching for the next post.

If you ever need some hints of ideas on how to do this, remember there is my question corner for anonymous questions/advice.