- Overcome fear. Or inspire them, at least, to face it so it doesn’t consume them.
- Weather a storm (literally). Tie down the grill, bring in the lawn chairs, battle for the last gallon of milk in the supermarket—but also make sure they know how to make the most of their forced time indoors together.
- Admit when you’re wrong.
- Ride a bike.
- Shake hands the right way. Right hand, eye contact, firm grip.
- Know what to do in a fire. Get out quickly and safely. Drill them on your family’s escape plan until they can recite it as if their lives depend on it.
- Be spontaneous.
- Converse with grown-ups. Model eye contact and real conversations, not just one-word answers.
- Answer the phone appropriately. A confident hello, find out who it is, and deliver the message ASAP.
- Carve a turkey. The best effort can be eclipsed by poor presentation, but a mouth-watering platter wins hearts as well as palates.
- Relish curiosity. Teach them to use Google to answer any question in seconds—and worry about primary sources later.
- Spot the deer grazing on the side of the road. And help ensure your kids never lose their sense of delight about the wildlife around them.
- Grill chicken on the BBQ so it’s not dried out—or raw.
- Overcome setbacks. Let them see what a graceful reaction to disappointment looks like.
- Keep your eyes on your goals.
- Shoot a basketball. Every year it will get closer, until one day—SWISH! And with that, a moment of pure childhood joy and accomplishment.
- Find the humor in (almost) any situation and appreciate the absurd.
- Make up silly nicknames. Nothing says I love you—or gets their attention—quite like that special moniker you have for them.
- Experiment in the kitchen. Show them that delicious things can come from experimentation—and that even “failure” is perfectly fine for dinner.
- Get rid of bugs in the house. Their instinct may be to just say “yuck,” but show them instead how to chase that critter and swat decisively.
- Advocate for your needs. No one will read their minds, so they need to learn to speak up for themselves.
- Surprise the ones you love. You sometimes bring home flowers for mom; perhaps your kids can clean their rooms once in a while?
- Love all things baseball. Get them hooked on the magic that transfixed you as a boy.
- Discover all the fun you can have with a cardboard box.
- Understand the value of money and make good decisions about it. Guide them in deciding when to spend and when to save their allowance, just like you do with your hard-earned cash.
- Play Monopoly. Fun, with a bit of financial education for everyone.
- Prioritize family over work—even if work takes you away now and again.
- Hold onto your friends. Encourage your kids to forge the same kind of close relationships you have nurtured over a lifetime.
- Keep a pet healthy and happy. Great practice for being a responsible adult. Pets are kind of like your kids’ kids.
- Do what you must do, even if you don’t want to. Sometimes everyone’s just gotta grin and bear it.
- Make vegetables edible, even exciting.
- Separate and bundle recycling.
- Take your medicine—and without too much protest.
- Brush your teeth. Make it silly, make it fun, and make it something they will want to do effectively on their own.
- Embrace alone time. Show them how to recognize when it would be best to play quietly on their own.
- Know when it’s best not to say something. You learned this—perhaps the hard way—and the sooner they do, the better.
- Don’t nurse a grudge. So they don’t spend their lives angry and resentful.
- Ask a favor, do a favor. Seeking help is hard, and inconveniencing yourself to help others can be just as difficult. Show them what it means to do both without hesitation.
Dads, be aware: Your kids are watching you—and learning from you constantly—no matter how independent they act. To make sure they absorb the right lessons, here is the definitive guide to what you, as a dad deeply involved in your kids’ lives, may want to teach them, or model by example, over the next few years.
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