It seems like yesterday when I was assigned my very first magazine article for Health Today. Summit Media’s Prevention Magazine just folded up and I found myself sans any publication to write for. But I’ve always believed in the saying that when a door closes, God opens a window somewhere, and for me it was United Business Media the publisher behind Moms Today (Formerly Moms & Babies) and Health Today which I eventually contributed for on a regular basis until 2006.
From the many articles I wrote for these two publications, one particular article remains my favorite and for good reason. Daddies With A Difference was my very first assignment and I had the privilege of interviewing 6 dads from the Philippines and Singapore from diverse backgrounds but were all super inspiring.
Please allow me to share with you this timeless article as we celebrate this very special day for dads around the globe.
Eric Dizon recently taught his two boys the benefits of eating bananas. It turned out to be one of the most fun-filled-and potassium-packed activity father and sons ever did.
“We played a game of pretend inside the radio station,” recounts Dizon, the national broadcasting director of a leading Broadcasting Company in Manila. “Using a banana as the microphone, I said, “testing, testing..mike test,” and took a bite of the banana. I then interviewed my boys who also bit off the “mike.”
They really had so much fun.” Dizon says that such adventures with the “potassium-laden microphones” laid the foundation of good eating habits in his kids.
“If you’re a democratic father like (Dizon), then fatherhood wouldn’t be a burden at all,” says Jonel Milan, a father of four and a family counselor in a radio program. Being a democratic dad means recognizing and accepting the fact that your parenting techniques must change as your child matures.
A child is most receptive to teaching and instruction between the ages of 1 and 7. At 8 to 12 years, he appreciates the presence and support of his father through the good and bad times of his young life. The most trying stage comes when the child reaches puberty, when he is torn between his raging hormones and unrelenting quest for identity.
Sometimes, says Milan, a child will only share his true feelings with his father, “if he’s secure that you’re his coach, a confidant who will not judge him harshly and is always ready to listen.” This isn’t easy as it sounds.
“We often judge our children by what they do,” says Clem Guillermo, a family counselor and managing director of Back to the Bible, an international organization that serves through counselling, broadcasting and literature.
“But we seldom try to understand why they do things and how they feel about what they did,” says Guillermo who has two kids of his own. Parents must become part of their child’s public world (e.g. school), private life (e.g. crushes) and inner world where his fears, dreams and wishes reside.
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A teenager’s strongest influence is his friends. That’s why it is more effective to be your kid’s coach or confidante, most especially during his adolescent years, other than to play the role of an autocratic patriarch.
When his kids tell him about their day, Milan listens intently and occasionally throws in comments like, “You must have felt excited during that time,” or “You must have been really upset because of what happened.” Validate your child’s emotions, he says. when you help your child figure out how he feels in a variety of situations, you also teach him how to empathize with other people’s joys and pains.
Panny Paragas, a consultant for a nongovernmental organization and father of two, knows only too well the importance of communication in parenting. He remembers his wife spraining an ankle when their daughter was just 3. With great sadness, his daughter asked Paragas, “Does this mean we have to shoot Mama?” The poor girl was of course referring to the usual practice of “putting down” severely injured horses.
Parents must explain the hows and whys of things children see on TV, the internet or in magazines. When explaining use simple language kids can understand, says Chiew Eel Keat, an IT and business management practitioner from Singapore, and father of two. “Always talk to your child in a non-confrontational manner.”
TEACH THROUGH PLAY
Play with your kids regularly and make the games as spontaneous as possible, advises Milan. Before playtime starts, Chiew sets a definite schedule-say from 10 to 11 AM. “So when it is time to stop, there is less grumbling.”
Milan chooses games his kids are good at, games in which the children can beat their father. “But don’t let them beat you that easily because kids will know,” he says. “This teaches them that winning isn’t everything and it’s alright to lose or fail sometimes, that failure is part of life.”
Research shows that children who fail to learn the give-and-take involved in childhood games are more likely to become violent adults.
Rhico Mendoza, a computer hardware specialist, strongly believes that dads should play with their daughters the same way they do with their sons. Mendoza wrestles and plays basketball with her 8 and 12 year-old daughters. When your daughter how to hustle and to dribble, shoot or kick a ball, she learns about teamwork and graceful winning and losing.
But games aren’t your only option.Storytelling provides an excellent way to develop your child’s brain and a unique means to pass down family history and beliefs. By telling your child stories, she discovers a part of you no one else knows about-how sad you were when your first dog died or how nervous you got during your first date. Experts say a child learns about the soul of his father from the stories he tells.
BALANCE WORK & FAMILY
Milan give his office number to people who need counselling, but not his home number. “Sometimes you must have the will to say ‘no’ and the courage to be misunderstood because of that.” Paragas agrees. Earning a living shouldn’t come at the expense of family.
This is what Guillermo tells fathers who, because they work so hard to provide their kids a better future, end up neglecting the present. There will be no future for your children. “For a child love is spelled T-I-M-E,” says Guillermo. That’s why Chiew waits until all his kids are asleep before working on office stuff he brings home.
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TRUST YOUR KIDS TO BE RESPONSIBLE
Milan lets his kids choose household chores based on their age and skills. Choices range from dishwashing and cooking to cleaning the house. The important thing is everyone has his or her own share of responsibility. Once, after noticing that his father’s name wasn’t included in the day’s list of tasks, Milan’s third child blurted out, “Why doesn’t Papa have any assignments?” Milan was eventually assigned to wash the car.
If you want your child to learn responsibility, “set the example even if it hurts,” Paragas says. “Children develop better when you encourage them constantly,” advises Guillermo.
SHOW YOUR EMOTIONS
“When I come home disappointed, I don’t hide it from my children,” admits Milan. “I share my feelings with them.” When you open up to your kids, they realize that you are also human, says Guillermo and they learn to face the struggles of growing up with confidence. Parents tend to be overprotective of their kids, observes Paragas. “Let them experience how life rally is, but make sure you’re always there to assist and guide them,”
YOUR CHILDREN, YOUR FRIENDS
These six dads agree that fathers should be involved in parenting as moms are. They also recognize that laughter in the home is a key ingredient “to help parents release their children into adulthood.”
But the most important truth these men have learned is that to be a truly successful father, you must accept and treat your children as friends.