Dads of Toddlers Need Patience

by Dr. Ken Canfield

What’s the one thing that all dads of infants and dads of preschoolers need?

At the National Center, we isolated one hundred men in the early stages of fathering and asked them, “What is the biggest struggle you face in wanting to be a good dad?” There were actually two answers that were most common by far:

  1. the sacrifice of time involved in “being there for my children,” and
  2. a lack of patience.

Let’s look more at that second one.

Patience is crucial for dads of a very young child because your child moves at a different pace and operates at a different size than you, and it’s the opposite of what you’ve been used to for many years and possibly your whole life. And that’s all happening while your upwardly mobile career aspirations are digging into your family time.

Realize early on that kids are going to slow you down.

A simple trip across town has now become a major operation. Did you remember the diaper bag, bottle, pacifier, food, extra clothes, stroller, and everything else? Did you remember the baby? It takes patience.

Patience for the 3:00 a.m. feedings; patience for teething; patience for toilet training; patience for the dreaded “terrible twos“; patience for your child’s first outright defiant act.

And then, they learn how to talk: “Daddy, why do birds fly?” “Daddy, what’s in your backpack?” “Daddy, why can’t I have more candy?” Patience will help you treat these questions with respect, giving them brief, confident answers and showing your child that you consider him important enough to take time and listen.

You’ll also need patience when it comes to your wife.

Her body has undergone profound changes—physically, mentally, and chemically. Much of her energy goes into chasing and caring for a toddler. You’ll need to be patient when she has no energy to take her turn cooking dinner, or go for walks, or even … well, just be patient. Cut her some slack, dad. It isn’t easy being a mother and wife during this stage, either.

Fathering young children involves sacrifice. Having kids of any age means means shifting your priorities. Their needs will rarely be convenient and fit neatly in to your schedule. You’ll be asked to change or put on hold some of the things you have enjoyed in the past. But, believe me, it’s worth it. Through patience, you are laying the groundwork for a lifetime of fun and companionship with your kids. There may not be a more meaningful investment you can make with your time, energy and even money.

Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  • What’s the biggest struggle you face as a father right now?
  • How have your challenges as a dad changed through the years?
  • Do you consider yourself a patient person?
  • How can you grow in this area?
  • When do you feel the most frustration with your kids?
  • What have you given up or changed in your life because of your kids?
  • What are the most rewarding aspects of being a dad for you right now? Keep focusing on those—especially when you feel frustration coming on.

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.

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