Third and final parenting field: INSTRUCTING. Far and away the hardest one for me as a Dad! Ok…listening and being are both really hard too. Let’s be honest, being a Dad is HARD! I originally called this field of parenting commanding, but I realized when combined with listening and being it becomes more effective to call it instructing. Let me give you an example. Your son or daughter is not listening to you. You continue to repeat yourself and they seem to be ignoring you (this never happens to me!). You are just getting angrier and more frustrated. You aren’t even paying attention to what they are doing, but you know they are listening but refusing to obey. Finally you lose it and you command them to do whatever you ask! They try to explain but you aren’t even giving them a chance to explain. Then they are upset and either begrudgingly do what you ask with major attitude, or they lose it and throw a fit. You didn’t give a chance for them to speak so you can listen, nor did you give them your being, because you have a ton of other stuff going on. This is Commanding! Now this is not a terrible thing, but you child should have listened to you. How could this have worked better? I think the answer is INSTRUCTING. The reality is that your child needs to be instructed by you about listening and telling you the story of why they weren’t doing what you asked. If you first decide to go over and give your presence or being, then you are able to get their attention. Next, you can ask them what is going on. You can explain that it is rude and disrespectful to not respond, even if they are doing something important. This becomes a teachable moment. This is instructing and it is how I want to handle myself as a Dad.
Commanding things as a Dad is a must too. They might be doing something dangerous and need to stop immediately. So please hear me, commanding is necessary at times. But what your child needs is for most moments of discipline to become teachable moments. You must first give your being and listening to your child before you instruct so that you can meet them where they are.
Parenting can often feel like all we do is command and order our kids around. If you are like me, a day of saying do this or don’t do that makes for a terrible day where I can’t wait for my kids to be asleep. A day of instructing my child and working WITH them often feels like a great accomplishment, even if I still can’t wait for them to go to sleep. The truth is, even as adults we crave good instruction, so then we can act in the right way or make the right decision. We get to be that person for our children. We get to guide and direct them to adulthood.
- Remember, first listen and give your being. Listening helps you understand where your kids are coming from and helps you tailor your instruction for them. Being helps you connect to their emotions. You can find empathy for your child and meet them where they are. You are going to have to connect to your own emotions for them to feel heard and understood. You were once a child that had conflict with your parents and maybe you didn’t feel heard or understand. Do your best to do things differently.
- Remember the age and maturity of your child. Remembering the growth of your child’s brain is huge. The younger they are the harder it is for them to access logic and understand our explanations. Break it down for them in a simpler way and help them move from their emotions to their logic, because they do not do that on their own. Use stories or act things out with toys to help them understand your instruction.
- Look for moments to instruct in order to help your little bambino become an adult. The goal of parenting is for your kids to mature into healthy adults. The best way for this to happen is through your instruction and guidance. They need you to instruct them and you get the honor of being their guide!
My prayer is that this week you will see many chances to be intentional and instruct your child in a loving and engaging way. Let us know how it goes and if you have any ideas we can steal to be better dads!