Friday, February 19, 2010

I have something to say.

Not long ago, I was at the local community centre when I spotted a poster. A university professor was doing research on fathers and their attitudes towards their children’s safety. Long story short—I called and volunteered to be a part of the study.

A few days later we met, and I was asked a series of questions. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t shut up. At the end, I apologized for going on so long and asked how the study was going so far. Dr. Brussoni told me she had been overwhelmed by the number of enthusiastic men who wanted to participate and offer volumes of information. She was surprised that she had to turn some of them away.

“That’s because no one ever asks us our opinion when it comes to parenting,” I said. “They are probably just as thrilled as I am that someone actually wants to listen to what they have to say about being a dad.”

On an individual basis, I’m sure there are many people who care what men think about parenting. But on a societal level, it’s all about the moms: from magazines to media to marketing.

The purpose of telling this story, believe it or not, is not to rant about how society still largely sees dads as “the person who helps out” with the parenting (which, sadly, is the case in many instances.) This story is about the power of listening.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to have someone really interested in my parenting philosophies as a father. Instead of being pegged into a hole, I was being valued for my opinions.

We need to do the same for our kids.

If you are the father of a teen, you know how hormones and coming into adulthood can be turbulent. I can certainly remember as a teen resenting that no one outside of my peer group seemed to care what I had to say. I felt like society didn’t give a damn about my opinion; society just expected me to be a trouble maker.

If my three year old asks me a string of questions, at some point, I usually ask him what he thinks. I do this partly for the comedic responses. Mostly, I do it to strengthen our bond.

Asking your children what they think will help them develop critical thinking and deductive reasoning. In short, you are encouraging them to think for themselves. But more importantly, when you ask your child his or her view, you are showing them that you care. Our kids see us as knowledge keepers and benevolent dictators. By seeking their outlook, you are now teaching them that what they have to say is of value. You are empowering them. You are helping foster their self esteem.

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