Earlier this year, I published a book entitled MANUP! – A Practical Guide to Being a Dad. In it, my wife and I try to share some bits of wisdom that we have learned over the years. Our hope was to help prepare Dads for some of the things they will face as their kids grow. It really isn’t a “you should do it this way” book as much as a guide to “be aware of these things, because they are coming at you!”
Anyway, Pierre thought it would be a good idea to share a few words on my definition of Manning Up and to perhaps give a few simple steps to put it into practice–so here goes.
In my view, to MANUP is to shoulder your responsibilities to your family and kids. Our society is full of men that father kids and walk away, that fail to help around the house, or fail to provide the guidance, discipline and coaching that kids need in order to grow. Today, kids are exposed to adult issues at a very early age. The exposure to danger and risk is much greater than has been the case in the past.
Men and women have a role to play in guiding their kids, showing them where the pitfalls are and helping them to navigate through all of the stuff of growing up. So to MANUP is to really do your part to help your kids grow to be healthy and complete human beings. And yes, both Moms and Dads need to MANUP!
Step One – Develop and Align on Your Parenting Philosophy – while this sounds like two things, the basic presumption is that single or not, most parents have a partner, spouse or significant other that plays a role in the raising of your child. If you and that person are not on the same parenting page, your kids will either be confused, or play one of you against the other. It is important that the adults are consistent and see things from the same point of view so that the kids know where they stand.
You don’t have to decide right away on every possible scenario that will come your way, but you should at least develop some common sense guidelines that will serve you. A few examples: setting boundaries and discipline, what are the important lessons that you want to impart to your child, how will you respond when your kids interact with other kids. These things are going to happen, and you would rather have the discussion before hand, rather than after the fact. If you are living apart from the other parent, you need to get aligned with them too. You don’t want your child living under two sets of rules because surely, one parent will lose out. Figure out how to set your differences aside for the sake of the kids.
Step Two – Recognize that your role is that of a parent, not always your kid’s best friend. If you can manage to do both, great for you! But, if you have to choose to be one or the other, you have to be the parent first. Anyone can be your kid’s best friend, but you are the only one that can be the parent. The parent is there to love, protect, provide for, teach, guide and sometimes discipline the kid. You have to recognize your role and realize that your role is different than any other adult that your child will ever come across. You are responsible for that young life. Recognize this and act like it.
Step Three – Love First and Always. The first and foremost rule of a parent is that everything you do should be done out of love for the child. The child will try your patience, challenge you, break most of your rules and, at some point, probably lie to you as well. He will force your hand and push your buttons incessantly. But in any situation, you must always make sure the child knows that you love them. Even when discipline is to be applied, the child needs to know that the reason for the discipline is that you love them. Discipline is only a response to their inappropriate behavior. The child must learn what behavior is acceptable and what is not and it is your job to teach them. Using discipline on one hand and love on the other provides the most powerful means for doing just that.
Step Four – Provide rules and consistent application. Many people don’t recognize that rules are there to protect the child. Children don’t have the same “It’s not Safe Filter” as adults, so establishing rules within which your child is to operate is absolutely critical. But, part of a kid’s job is to push the envelope. In other words, they learn by pushing up against those rules and stretching the boundaries. But since a kid doesn’t know what is safe, you have to make sure age appropriate boundaries are set– and enforced. You can’t allow the child to break rules that you set. If a child learns they can break the rules, they lose respect for you as their parent. They also learn that no rules are important. They have to learn the rules so they can interact in society and they have to learn that their behavior has consequences. It is your job to teach them.
Step Five – Shoulder Your Responsibilities … all of them. This one is a pretty broad category but as a parent, you now are responsible for a life. You need to act like it. It is not about you. It is not about you and your spouse. It is about the family, as a whole, and raising your children to be happy healthy adults. A life has been placed in your hands. You are responsible for the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental development of that young child. Children are not a burden. Children are a gift. It is your role to develop that gift and give that child every opportunity to have a healthy life. Regardless of what you have experienced in your own life, you have the chance to make a difference. Take the good that has happened in your life and build upon it. Take the bad that has occurred in your life and avoid it. You have the ability to better, not only your own family but society . . . by helping your child to be the best person they can become.
The greatest gift that you will ever receive is the love of a child. Being a parent is an opportunity unlike any other. I hope that these simple steps, from a seasoned Dad, help you in your quest to MANUP! and be the best parent you can possibly be!
DAD (Dennis A Daniel)
Dennis – thanks so much for this wonderful post and your great book. We wish you success! If you liked this post, pick up a copy of Dennis’ book – MANUP! A practical guide to being a dad.