by Brock Griffin
Here’s my best advice … about parenting advice.
All men start their parenting journey with a lot of questions. Women too. There is no mandatory training to become a parent, although a pregnant woman is much more likely than an expectant father to start reading up about how her life is about to change, and preparing as best she can for those changes.
But what often happens—especially with dads—is that we cruise along until we run into a crisis, and then suddenly we’re desperate for answers. There are some general principles about being a great father and a great parent that we would all do well to keep in mind. For me, spiritual truths provide a lot of important guidelines when it comes to raising children.
But sometimes we need a solution or a technique for a specific challenge. There are dozens of examples …
Your baby won’t sleep at night.
Your three-year-old drives you crazy with defiance.
Your six-year-old won’t eat his vegetables at dinnertime.
Two of your kids seem to be at each other’s throats all day long.
Your daughter has just become a teenager with an attitude to match.
Your young-adult son wants to move back home, and he really has no plans beyond that.
Sometimes you’ll get lucky and have great success by going with your gut. But since you want to give your kids the very best, it makes a lot of sense to look outside for help. How do you know what approach to use?
Maybe a trusted friend, a relative, or an older father you know has some good insights, based on what worked for him. There are also tons of great books, webinars and other resources with helpful approaches to parenting challenges. Out of all the parenting advice you might get, I’m convinced that there is usually more than one approach that would help you solve the issue if you followed it perfectly. The thing is, every family and every child is unique, and there are no perfect parents.
So here’s my advice: do your research and talk to the people around you who are good parents. Figure out an approach that you believe in, something that will work for your unique situation, and maybe most importantly, one that you’re willing to carry out on an everyday basis. Of course, if you’re married, you make these decisions together because both of you need to be committed to carrying out the plan and sending a consistent message to your children.
For example: to get your toddler to go to sleep at night, some recommend reassuring him that you’re nearby, but letting him cry for five or ten minutes as he learns to calm himself and fall asleep on his own. That works for some parents, and it might work with your child. But there are other approaches that work for other parents. And you might need to try something else if your child’s crying really stresses you out or you worry that it’s teaching him that he can’t rely on you when he needs you.
Again, find something you believe in that you’re also willing to follow through on consistently. And keep in mind that following a new approach might mean making needed adjustments to what you’re doing now with your kids. It might even mean adjusting some of your foundational ideas about effective parenting.
We want to be wise and do our very best for our children, but we also have to be realistic. Sometimes good advice will suggest something that we aren’t willing to do, for a number of reasons.
Also, no matter what approach we try, we’re all inconsistent and we fail at times—just like our parents were far from perfect. (And yet we didn’t turn out so bad.) To a degree, we need to trust that to work with our kids as well. We need to have a high commitment to be there and be an involved, active father, but also embrace the idea that relationships require a lot of grace, and there’s a good chance our kids will do well in spite of our shortcomings.
Does any of this ring true for you? What’s your best advice for other dads? Please join the discussion either below or at our Facebook page.
- Many times, we know what our children need from us; what’s missing is our commitment to carry it out, or maybe other pursuits are getting our best time, energy and attention. Be a committed dad!
- Check in with a younger dad about the challenges he is facing in his family. If he’s open to it, share an insight or two that helped you in that area.
Brock Griffin is writer and editor at NCF and co-author of the book It’s Great Being a Dad. He handles or helps with many of NCF’s writing and editing projects, including books, blogs, weekly e-mails, and articles for outside publications. Brock and his wife Tara have three children and live in the Kansas City area.
NCF is a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. You can sign up for NCF’s Today’s Father Weekly email here.