As a parenting author, I've seen hundreds of parenting books and read countless articles. Often, they are echoing the same principles. I'm not knocking it... I've written numerous articles about the biggies that parents often neglect, like spending more time with your kids. But here are 3 tips you don't typically hear:
1. Wanna be a good dad? Then be a good husband first.
Want your kids to feel safe, loved and valued? Then work on your marriage. We're seeing more research emerging about one of the best predictors of cognitive success being emotional stability of the home environment. Bioengineering expert Dr. John Medina said it like this, "Do you want to know how to get your kid into Harvard? Go home and love your wife."
It's this simple. When our kids are young, they are searching for clues in their home to see if they are safe. "Children look to their parents and the relationship they have with each other to assess whether that's true or not," Medina says.
2. No Rules by 17 1/2
Most people would agree toddlers need a lot of guidance. If your 2-year-old starts heading for the road when a semi-truck is coming... not many dads would say, "Leave him be. He'll learn!" At the opposite end of the spectrum, everyone knows when our teens turn 18, they can legally move out and do whatever they want. The tricky part for parents is that time in between. How much guidance and control do we assert, especially in those teenage years?
The answer is "a segue." Start with heavy guidance and slowly segue towards less control, with a goal of "no rules by 17 1/2." Sure, you could wait until 18... but why? Why not have them totally free while still under the safety of your shadow?
I tried this principle with my oldest daughter, starting with realistic guardrails, then giving more trust over the years, and eventually parenting our 17-year-old like an 18-year-old. She is 18-years-old and on her own now... and it's really no big deal. She's been making decisions for a while now.
3. Real Life Reality Shows
Parents are always looking for teaching moments. When real life hardships appear, don't be scared to talk about what you experienced. If your sister is getting a divorce, ask your teenagers what they think. What can they learn from the situation?
Real life isn't always a huge crisis. Yesterday I was driving down the road and came upon a lady trying to back her boat into a driveway... and it became quickly and painfully obvious she didn't know how to back a trailer. Cars began lining up and honking. I pulled over, walked over to her with a smile and asked, "Would you like some help?" She happily got out of the car and let me take a crack at it. Moments like these are fun to dialogue about with your kids. Don't lecture, just ask questions: "Why do you think people were so upset with her?" "How should people respond when they see someone struggling like that?" "What are ways we can show love to people in stressful situations?" "How could you help someone in need?"
Look for these real life discussion moments, or even watch entertainment together that springboards discussion about real life.