The following is a guest blog by my dad, Dallas Johnston:
I’m no expert. I never read Parents Magazines. And my nature is to be short on patience and, at times, a fairly quick temper. But, I’ve always felt that most of parenting is “Common Sense”, which in general, is my forte. More important, I’ve felt from day one of becoming a Dad, that being a good parent is probably the most important thing I’ll do in my lifetime. Everyone is limited to the amount of impact they can have on the world, but your kids and their kids for generations to come can have a huge impact to make the world a better place.
- Become a working partner with Mom.. I learned this one from my parents. When one of you has “had it up to here”, the other needs to become stronger. When one of you loses their temper, the other needs to be the one to soften things up. There should be times when you can casually talk to each other about your kids. Take advantage of the opportunity to work as a team.
- Enjoy all the phases of your kid’s lives. Your kids will grow up in a hurry. Some ages are more difficult than others. But each age has adventures that they only go through once. Be a part of all of it and have no regrets of what you missed.
- Dare to Discipline. – The world has rules. There are rewards for good behavior and penalties or punishments for unacceptable behavior. If children don’t learn this at an early age, the penalties become harsher as they grow older. Try to explain why behaviors are unacceptable…how it affects them and the people around them.
- Don’t be afraid to say “no”. No is the answer when requests are not safe, not good for you, not in the family economic situation, not fair to everyone in the family. Children need to learn early on that they will not always get there way. Never surrender to a child because they are throwing a fit. These are wars that parents must win.
- Don’t be afraid to say “yes”. When my kids asked for things, my immediate response was usually “no way”. That would give me the option to surprise them with a ‘yes’ once in a while. Kids should be rewarded for responsible behavior. As they become teenagers, the reward is additional independence, which they’ve earned by showing their trustworthiness.
- Integrity is everything. When kids get in trouble, their defensive mechanisms often cause them to lie about what happened. Mistakes can be overcome, but lying can not be tolerated. If you cannot trust what your child is telling you is the truth, you have a very damaged relationship. This should be made very clear to your children at every stage of growing up.
- Stupid Mistakes do not make a child ‘Stupid’. We all have done a lot of stupid things in our lives. Kids will make a lot of dumb mistakes as they experiment with new things in life. Do not call your child an idiot or stupid because they did something without thinking. Mistakes are easy to overcome, but damaging a child’s sense of being and their confidence can be long lasting.
- Balance work and family life. Most people who are workaholics have self inflicted themselves with work. Supporting your family in an important part of being Dad. But most employers actually understand the need for family time and are able to adjust to family needs. Look for that balance to fulfill all of your duties.
- Be there. Know your kids well enough to know what’s important to them. They won’t always tell you. You don’t have to be at every game, but you do need to figure out when your presence is needed and wanted.
- Recognize the difference in your kids. Before you have your second child, you often are naïve enough to think that your kids will all be very similar. Then you learn that they are all unique, driven by different things, have different needs, resolve things differently. You need to recognize and appreciate these differences to work the best with each child.
- Take your family to Church. Ideally, Dad should be the spiritual leader of the family. But that actually happens in a very low percentage of families. If you can’t fulfill that role, take one for the team, and attend a church you like with your family. Everyone in life will run across difficulties larger then them, larger than their parents. Give your children the opportunity to be prepared. Also, as children become teenagers, they tend to get advice from people other than their parents. Do you want that person to be a Youth Leader or a Gang Leader.
I’ve been blessed with great kids that have grown up to become adults with character that care about others and are now raising their own families. Taking that time for good parenting is beneficial for the rest of your life. The penalty for ignoring your kids and letting them grow up without you can also follow you around the rest of your life.