There is an old saying that “one father is worth more than a hundred school masters” which in a few words encapsulates the value of a male figure in the upbringing of children. Loving fathers who are fully involved in their children’s upbringing and show affection and support from day one, are intrinsically valuable to not only their marriage relationship and their family – but also to their children’s future.

The first step in being a good father is simply showing up. – Unknown. Children like to feel that you are there, not just in body. Engage in conversation, have some fun, share in their highs and lows of the day. If it feels awkward, ask their mother what they are interested in or what they enjoy doing and begin there. If you have a special television programme you would like to watch or need to catch up on computer time, then fill their love tanks and give them quality time before you start. One man related this story; When my dad was watching his favourite sport on television I would walk up to him and gently touch his shoulder. My dad would not only turn and look at me, he would first grab for the remote and put the television off. I would always get his complete, undivided attention. It made me feel really special. If you are one of those people that first need to chill for 10 minutes before you can take on the task of being a father, then read this story: When my dad came home in the evenings, he always needed a few minutes alone after a hard day. Mom made sure that we respected that. We would hide around the corner, peeping. Dad would sit on the same chair and read his newspaper while we silently waited. Then, when he “rustled“ his paper it was our queue to run and dive onto his lap and we would be tickled till the tears ran down our cheeks. Then we had his full attention. Promises Never make a promise you cannot keep. Be a man of your word so your children can learn to trust you and so that they can grow up to be adults with integrity. Rather say something like, “I will think about it,” or “maybe” before you answer, but if you commit to something, make it a priority to stick to it. Children do not even necessarily remember the event, but the disappointment is engraved in their heart. Don’t make a promise when you are in Joy. Don’t reply when you are Sad. Don’t take decisions when you are Angry. Think Twice, Act Wise. – Unknown. High expectations Keep your expectations reasonable. When they feel they can never live up to your standards, or ever feel good enough, they will constantly be looking for approval around every corner as adults. Their character is more important than their achievements. Your words Think before you speak. Let the words that come out of your mouth be that of a mentor combined with encouragement and praise. Children crave approval from their daddies, no matter how old they are. Think for a moment about your relationship with your father. What do you wish could have been different? What would you like to emulate? Date nights Dad’s relationships with their children are so important. Dad, if you want your daughter to choose a husband like you, you need to set an example of what she must look out for. The way you treat her is the standard she will be setting for the way her boyfriends should treat her. When a child does not feel loved by their daddy, they go out looking for it elsewhere. If your daughter is around 11 years old, it is a good time to take her on a proper date night. Have her mom buy her a special outfit for the evening and pick up some flowers on the way home. Take her to a special restaurant, open her door for her and pull out her chair. Teach her good etiquette with utensils and napkins. Show her how she deserves to be treated. Maybe buy a little bracelet or ornament to remember the evening by. Talk about it periodically, reminding her of what a great evening it was. Valentines day could maybe be a standard yearly date with dad and his daughter? Camp out With your young teenage son, have a guy’s cook out or camp out with other dads and their sons. Sit around the campfire and discuss the importance of how girls should be treated and their responsibilities as the male. Have each dad say what he appreciates about each boy present. Keep in mind that the way you treat your children is the standard they measure others by. The chances are your daughter might choose to marry someone very much like you. How would you feel about that?
There are no great men, only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet.” William F. Halsey It has become more and more common for mom’s to take on the mother and father role. Besides the high divorce rate, fathers are often away as it is sometimes more financially beneficial to do so, than to be working from home. Sometimes even the moms have to travel too. A child could be acting out as a result of feeling like the father is absent, often away from home, or not taking the rightful place as head of the home. My friend was shocked when her husband came home from a business trip and her young son said, “Look mommy, that uncle has come to visit againHere are some dynamics to watch out for when dad travels often: • Mom struggles to share the responsibilities once dad is home. She has had to cope making all the decisions and being in control of the running of the house and single handedly coping with the discipline. On dad’s return, it becomes a mind-shift to adapt to the different roles again. • Dad feels guilty and wants to compensate for being away so tends to indulge the children. • Mom has ‘had enough’ and wants to hand over the responsibilities and have a break, while dad has preconceived ideas of ‘resting’ because he ‘has been working so hard’. And so the clash begins. • Dad comes home bearing gifts, and mom is seen as the ogre. • Mom allows children to sleep in her bed while dad is gone. They are chased out on his return and he becomes the ogre. Unless these issues are raised and discussed ahead of time, conflict can arise. The excitement and anticipation of his return can become a disaster with unmet expectations causing a blow up. Set up clear agreements of who is responsible for what in dad’s absence as well as when dad returns. Try to resume the same routine every time dad is home. Discuss issues and routines like: • Does dad do the bathing every night? • Does he take the children to school? • Does he help with cooking? • Who takes over paying the accounts, • Is the role of disciplinarian shared? When boundaries are established, then there is less chance for unmet expectations, which lead to disappointments and stress. The goal should always be to create “Peace in the Home” How to keep in touch Skype sessions are a great way to stay connected and be remembered. If your children are still under 8, you can tell them adventure stories on Skype instead of just asking, “how was your day?” It could be an adventure story that you make up as you go, with interesting events that could carry over to the next time so that they wait in anticipation for your next call. Or, remember an event they shared with you, like their friend’s dog that died, and ask them about it. With older children, show an interest in their hobbies or sports. You could ask questions like, “What was your highlight and lowlight this week?” “What was the best meal mommy made this week?” Also with the younger ones, you can record something before you leave. Whether it be a story that you have read or a message that you want them to listen to. They will enjoy hearing your voice. A count down calendar, like an event calendar, will help them look forward to the day you come home, with excitement. Resist the temptation to come home with presents as you walk in the door. Otherwise the tune you will hear is “What did you buy me?” instead of, “Hello dad!” Try not to over compensate because of your absence but rather step right up to the plate of being the parent in the house and insist on first time obedience and respect. Do not hesitate to dish out a consequence when necessary, then you can enjoy the rest of your time together. Otherwise they know they can get away with murder as soon as you arrive home. This can be extremely frustrating for your wife as she has had to handle the disciplining on her own and it then seems as if you are the friend and she is the “meany”. Let the children realize that you missed your wife as much as you missed them – this will give them a sense of security. “Remember to be nice to your children because they are the ones that choose your old age home one day” – Anon
Dads play such a significant role in the family unit, even though sometimes it feels like the family would do just fine without him – as long as they have his credit card! It is not an easy task to be a father; juggling work pressures, financial stress, being a good husband and a role model for your children. It is quite ironic that just as a father is climbing the corporate ladder, his children are reaching adolescence and maybe his wife, menopause! No wonder there is chaos in the home. “The act of compassion begins with full attention, just as rapport does. You have to really see the person. If you see the person, then naturally, empathy arises. If you tune into the other person, you feel with them. If empathy arises, and if that person is in dire need, then empathetic concern can come. You want to help them, and then that begins a compassionate act. So I’d say that compassion begins with attention.” ~Daniel Goleman One father told me of how he would come home with the workload on his shoulders, but he had a little routine. As he pulled up into the driveway, he would look into the windows of his home and say to himself, “The people in that house love and need me and they are the reason I go to work “, and so he would take a deep breath, walk up to the door, ‘put’ his work troubles into the mailbox and march in with a smile on his face. When he left in the morning he would ‘take’ them out again. When we seek out the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.

 William Arthur Ward Generally speaking, men cope better with work stress and women cope better with household stress. But these days there are more and more full-time working moms that have to cope with both. However, the last thing anyone wants to hear as they walk in the door exhausted, is, “I have had it! Its your turn to take the kids – they are driving me mad!” This is where teamwork is needed. Invest some time in date nights to keep your relationship strong. The best gift you can give your children is to love your wife. One dad told me he would phone home and ask his wife on score of 1-10 how bad her day was. They would compare notes and decide who’s day was worse. That one would then have a few minutes to themselves to re-energize before joining in and helping with the household demands and/or chores. When mom/dad arrives home, it could be an appropriate time to make use of Chill Time (from A Brand-New Child in 5 Easy Steps by Andalene Salvesen) so that the two of you can have a few minutes of silence to enable you to catch up. Often communication over a quiet cup of coffee should sort out what each one’s expectations of each other are when suicide hour begins. Try not to make assumptions, rather clarify. In most homes I go into the husband enjoys bathing the younger kids while mom cooks, but sometimes the dads prefer to be involved behind the stove. It is also great to include the older children to teach them how to cook. Then maybe later, they can be responsible for one meal a week? If you are divorced, show honour and respect towards her in front of your children as she is the mother of your children. The divorced homes that I have visited where the parents make the effort to have an amicable relationship, really shows in the happiness of the children. Sadly television shows often portray men as spineless beings with no original thought in their heads. Children that are exposed regularly to these sitcoms develop a warped sense of the role a father should play. Building relationship with your children is essential for their future wellbeing on so many levels. One year, with Mother’s Day approaching, someone at Hallmark had a brilliant idea to let inmates send cards to their mothers. They were inundated with requests for cards. Sadly when Father’s Day approached, the response was quite the opposite. How sad is that? The footsteps a child follows are most likely to be the ones his parents thought they covered up – Unknown. There are some things that are just not the same when coming from a mother: • Playing rough, like pillow fights, wrestling (very good for testosterone levels) • Taking risks together • Bringing out a girl’s femininity • Modeling to a boy his masculinity • Showing boys how to treat woman with respect • Showing girls how they should be treated by other males • Teaching them how to accept and give compliments • Teaching them to work with their finances • Teaching them to take responsibility for their actions • Modeling how to apologise • Modeling good work ethics • Listening to, being understanding and not necessarily fixing a problem • Believing in your child and their abilities • Being a loving caring dad that is relational • Preparing them to be a good daddy one day • Shaping their hearts • Showing unconditional love • Setting fair predictable boundaries • Mentoring them in areas of their child’s interest • Encouraging independence • Providing financial security
Lovingly known as Super Granny, Andalene Salvesen travels the world as a speaker and parenting coach. She was the owner and principal of a school in Cape Town for 8 years. Being mostly a stay-at-home mom, with a passion for children, she compiled a parenting seminar combining extensive knowledge and valuable experience. She has been presenting this course for nearly two decades in a variety of venues and locations. For the past decade she has also helped families by coaching them through common parenting challenges such as healthy boundaries, tantrums, sleeping, eating, discipline, sibling rivalry and much more, in the privacy of their own homes. Munchkins is a powerful resource to assist you with every step of the parenting journey. We believe in empowering parents with the right tools to transform family dynamics and offer a range of practical solutions for your family. This includes providing parenting talks, home visits, healthy lunchbox sessions and online parenting courses with simple and easy to apply advice for all ages. Find out more about us at www.munchkins.me