Monday, 27 May 2013

What makes a great dad?

A subject close to my heart, as you'd expect, and the subject of this guest post by Cat Williams, relationship counsellor, military wife and author of new book Stay Calm & Content. Cat writes... 

As parents, we've probably imagined a future for our son or daughter. Perhaps we envisaged them married to a particular kind of person, or aspired to a particular type of success for them, as well as imagining the respectful and positive relationship they would have with us.

If we don’t feel a positive relationship has come to pass then what can we do about it?

“fear makes strangers of people who should be friends”
Shirley MacLaine

Children growing up are usually fully aware of their parent’s expectations, even if they are not explicitly expressed.  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 one-day realise we want something different?

A good dad firstly 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.  Children (and parents), of any age, want to feel listened to, understood, respected, and loved.

If we 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 might beat faster, we might feel twitchy, our mouths might go dry, 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 do what makes ourselves feel better in some way, maybe defend ourselves by judging or criticising each other and arguing, or cease speaking to one another, and then think “I don’t know why I did that”.

‘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

To help yourself be a great dad you can:

  • Look at where your expectations for your adult child come from.  How do you define ‘happy’ and ‘successful’ and why do you or define them that way?
  • Ask your child how they define happy and successful, and whether they have achieved what they would like for themselves.
  • Help your child with their self-esteem and self-belief by accepting them as they are; asking for and listening to their opinions; and encouraging them to find their own way of achieving their goals.
  • Work on your own self-esteem by making time for things which will help you to feel confident and positive e.g. exercise, time with close friends, enjoying a hobby etc.
  • Find positive ways to spend time with your son or daughter, doing something they, or you both, enjoy.
  • Show your child that you accept and value their partner, children, other relatives and friends by being open-minded and getting to know them as individuals.
  • Giving 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, and we need to understand, not criticise this.
  • Tell 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.
  • Be a role model: speak about your thoughts, fears, frustrations, and weaknesses.  Demonstrating the self-confidence to speak openly about your own feelings, and to apologise for your mistakes, will help to normalise open communication, which will build understanding, respect, love, and a positive relationship.

Praise is like sunshine to the human spirit;
we cannot flower and grow without it – Jess Lair.

Stay Calm and Content by Cat Williams is available now for £9.99 from Amazon.


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