By Thomas Gagliano
When my son was nine, we were watching a baseball game together on television. As the camera panned over the cheering fans, he asked me why the kids in the stands were so excited. I said that the players are heroes to those kids. I suggested that someday one of those players might be his hero. He paused and said, “They may be my hero someday, but you will always be my first hero.” The message was clear — we are our children’s first heroes, whether we want that responsibility or not.
A hero is seen as a protector, one who safeguards you from danger. Above all, we as fathers have to ensure that we maintain our hero status with our children by ensuring that we have earned their trust, and if it has been hindered or damaged, it is our responsibility to regain it.
1) Celebrate victories. Celebrate achievements and victories by taking your kids for a treat. Before immediately running to the next dilemma, take time to enjoy accomplishments as a family. This will validate your child’s self-esteem and importance to you.
2) Confer regularly with your Inner Child. When our children struggle, stop and think about what you wanted to hear from your father at that age. Let that compassion shape what you say and how you say it.
3) Be curious. Show interest in your children’s lives by simply asking how they’re doing and what’s new with them.
4) Monitor your Inner Critic. If we grew up with an Inner Critic telling us all the things we’re doing wrong in life, chances are high we will pass this Inner Critic to our children. We need to take responsibility, as I did in my book, The Problem Was Me. We need to silence our own Inner Critic and become mindful of behaviors that could pass this intrusive voice down to our children.
5) Choose your battles. We must relinquish our need to always be right in our conversations with our children and instead choose closeness. Take a step back and identify with your children’s struggles and listening to their feelings.
6) Permit mistakes. Let your kids know that mistakes are part of being human. Affirm that they can fail at times without becoming a failure. If we deny our children compassion when they stumble, we negate their humanness. If they lose compassion for themselves, they will lose compassion for others as well.
7) Provide a safe environment. Be the person they can come to with anything. Allow them vent, cry on your shoulder, or confide in you their mistakes.
No one is perfect, but we can do our best to try to be the hero that our children see or hope for.
*Parenting and relationship expert Thomas Gagliano is the author of The Problem Was Me and his newest title, Don’t Put Your Crap in Your Kid’s Diaper: The Clean Up Cost Can Last a Lifetime. www.thomasGagliano.com