by Jeff Jenkins
“A child looks up at the stars and wonders. A great dad puts a child on his shoulders and helps him grab a star.” – Reed Markham
If you have someone who believes in you … there is power in that!
It was August 21st, 2012, 6:30 a.m. My son Tristan, who was 5 at the time, came in and woke me up, beaming with excitement because it was his first half-day of kindergarten. It was as if he was just called up from the minor leagues to play in the bigs.
In our home, we have a tradition on the first day of every school year where we take a photo of each of our children next to a small chalkboard. On the chalkboard we write the date and the child’s school year along with whatever they say they want to be when they grow up.
So, after Tristan had eaten breakfast and dressed for school, it was time to do the chalkboard. “Okay, Son,” I said, kneeling down to his eye level. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
His first response: “A daddy, like you.”
I laughed and told him I was sure he would be a great dad someday, and then explained what kind of answer we were looking for, like a doctor, teacher, fireman, baseball player or paleontologist.
Tristan withdrew into some deep thought and pondered the question for what seemed like 5 minutes. Finally he said,
“Well, Dad, I think I would like to be the king-protector of my family.”
Again, I laughed and hugged him and started to explain. “That’s not how it works, Buddy. I’m asking you if you want to be a ….” I stopped myself when I caught the confused look in his eyes. Then I stood up and proclaimed, in my best “royal” voice, “Henceforth, from this day forward, Tristan shall be known as the King-Protector of his Family.” And that’s what we wrote on the chalkboard.
Upon hearing my proclamation you would have thought Tristan grew three inches. The pride he felt when I believed in him was palpable. It was a great moment for both of us.
This is just a small example of a dad realizing in the nick of time that my son needed me to believe in him.
He needed his dad to be a dream-builder.
Where my first thought might have been to push him toward something more realistic and possibly squash his dream, he just needed his dad to affirm that even the fantastic is possible, and he can become anything or anyone that he sets his mind to, without limitations or restrictions.
There will be plenty of time for self-discovery and reality as he gets older, for the world to put him in a box. As parents, we need to try our very best to protect that youthful innocence, believe in what they believe in and dream big alongside them! Isn’t that truly one of the most beautiful aspects about being a kid? The world is still limitless and their ultimate playground … and why not!?
“Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.” – Yoda
From my experiences interacting with children and young adults, it’s clear that most kids today are not getting this from key people in their lives as they grow up. Whether it’s their dad or other role models, very few are telling them, “I believe in you.” “You can do it.” And I can see that they often lack confidence, or focus, or perseverance in the face of challenges.
Even as an adult myself, its powerful when I hear those words from my own wife, dad, father-in-law or close friend. Hearing “I believe in you” makes me stand a little straighter, helps me live with more purpose, and removes feelings that I need to somehow prove myself to people. There are people I love and respect who believe in me, and that’s huge! There’s power in that!
So, dad, as your children dream those big, seemingly unrealistic dreams, make sure you believe in them, support them and encourage them. We must teach our children that they are never too young or too old to set another goal or dream another dream. If we can unconditionally love and believe in our children during the early years, we’ll see it pay dividends throughout their childhood and beyond. They’ll gain great confidence about whatever they face in life, and we’ll build a strong sense of trust between father and child that will be irreplaceable through the years.
We fathers should never dismiss the power we have with our children. They constantly look to us for our approval, and they need both our verbal and non-verbal affirmation. They are asking for it in just the way they look at us!
We have an awesome opportunity to be dream-builders in our kids’ lives, and we need to build them up, not break them down, no matter how old they are.
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person. He BELIEVED in me.” – Jim Valvano
We all need to believe in our children. Belief helps to remove fear and propel them toward success. By believing in our children, we are building more than confidence, trust, creativity and ingenuity; we are building the leaders, dream-builders, believers and “king-protectors of families” of tomorrow.
Dad, teach your kids to believe and dream wildly.
Be a kid with them … a conqueror of fears. Be their dad! Join them in their wild adventures, then step back and watch what happens next!
Jeff Jenkins is a friend and former staff member of NCF. He and his wife, Kelley, were married in 2003. Jeff’s #1 passion in life is being a husband and a dad to his two amazing kids. He enjoys every opportunity to encourage dads to: “Be present. Be there! Enter their world and invite them to enter yours.”