I like the words of Alison Gopnik in her book The Gardener and The Carpenter. “Children not only do as you do, they do as you intend to do, as you really ought to have done, and as it would make most sense for you to do.”
It’s true. Children don’t simply do as we tell them to do. They do as we do. They imitate our actions and repeat our words. Who hasn’t had the experience of hearing your toddler shouting out the profanity you said only one time in moment of frustration. Our children learn by observing us. But they learn even more than that. They learn and do as we intended to do, even when we mess up along the way. Consider the study involving 18-month-old toddlers watching someone trying to take a toy apart. As the person tries to take the toy apart, their fingers keep slipping. The 18-month-old children do not imitate the slipping fingers. They recognize the intent and imitate the intent by taking the toy apart without their fingers slipping. (Consider this example too. It’s one of my favorites and it’s An Amazing Parenting Insight Learned in Three Parts). Yes, our children imitate our intended behaviors.
They also do what we “really ought to have done” and what makes most efficient sense. Consider this example. A group of 18-month-old children watch as a person tries to make a box light up. The person’s arms were wrapped up, so he was unable to use them. So, to make the box light up, he lightly bangs his head on the box. The 18-month-old children do not bang their head on the box to get it to light up. Instead, they recognize the intent was to hit the box so it would light up. They also recognize the person’s inability to use their arms and the greater efficiency of using arms. So, they bang the box with their hands to make the box light up. Children do as we “really ought to have done.”
Still, on more caveat about this quote. Children are more likely to do as we intend and as we “really ought to have done” when we have a relationship with them. Children learn best from within a loving relationship. Which leads to a second quote by Alison Gopnik that I really like: “The key to love in practice is doing things together…participating in the world in a way that accommodates the strengths and weaknesses of both of you,” you and your child. Our children learn by observing and imitating. They imitate our intended purpose and will modify their actions to those that are most efficient and effective…even when we mess up. So, love your child by doing things together. Let them observe your patience when interacting with things in the world and your kindness when interacting with other people. Let them participate in the shopping, the acts of kindness, the cleaning, the games, the cooking. Let them observe your patience, your kindness, your joy… and they will imitate. They will imitate our intended actions and attitudes even when we mess up. (Really, this is great news. Consider how great this news is by reading My Children Are Copy Cats, No What?.)
If you play video games, you know
the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a
new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer
obtain a special tool or weapon you’ll need in the game.
If you’re a Dad of daughters, you
may feel as though you need a “cheat code,” inside information to
help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your
daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will provide a
gateway to a special power to influence your daughter toward maturity. If so, I have just what you’re looking for:
“cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.
Value: Household Chores involves helping around the house. When you help around the house you will discover many positive results.
When men get involved in household chores, they set an example for everyone else in the family. They also portray the kind of man they hope their daughter will marry, a man who models leadership through service.
Studies have shown that daughters who see their fathers engaged in household chores broaden their perceived career options. Daughters who see their fathers engaged in household chores are more likely to become in involved in careers involving leadership, management, or professional positions.
One last benefit which has nothing to do with your daughter. Your wife will love you for doing the chores and you’ll discover what it means that “sex begins in the kitchen.” Of course, a stronger marriage will also benefit your daughter.
Instructions: The instructions for Helping Around the House are
After dinner, help clear the table
and wash the dishes (or load the dishwasher).
Help complete the laundry. Put clothes
in the washer. Switch clothes from the washer to the dryer. Fold clothes. Put
the clothes away.
Take out the garbage.
In the morning, help make your bed.
Run the vacuum, clean the bathtub,
or mop a floor.
You get the idea. You don’t have to
do all of these. You don’t even have to do the same one all the time. However,
doing household chores on a regular basis will have a tremendous and positive
effect on your daughter. It’s a powerful “cheat code” for dads of daughters.
Many parents assess their parenting
skills based on their children’s behavior, successes, and achievements. They
base their parental identity and parental success on their children’s
performance in academics, sports, or the arts. You might be surprised, but these
are terrible measures of parental identity and parental skills. After all,
children misbehave. That does not mean we failed. As children become adults,
some of them make bad choices with lasting consequences. That does not
necessarily mean we were “bad parents.” After all, children have a
mind of their own. Still, parenting has a huge impact on our children. So, how
can we measure our parenting? How can we determine our parental success? How can
we develop a healthy parental identity? I have a suggestion. We can ask
ourselves a few questions in three basic areas. Our answers to those questions
can help us assess our parenting and determine our parental identity. So,
assess your parenting. Ask yourself:
Do I have a relationship with my child? (Realize the relationship you have with your children will
change over time. You will also have times in that relationship when you feel
closer than others. You will even experience times when they are angry with
you. But the question remains an important question: Do I have a relationship with my child?)
Am I available?
Am I approachable?
Am I respectful of their emotions?
Do I listen well? Do they know I strive to understand them?
Do I express my love for my children explicitly?
Do I provide a healthy, age appropriate structure in our
home and my child’s life?
Do my children know the limits and expectations?
Do I allow my children to experience the limits?
Do I hold my children accountable for their actions?
Can I allow my children to suffer the negative consequences
of their behavior?
Do I say what I mean and mean what I say?
Do I set a positive example for my children?
Do I set a good example in self-care?
Do I set a good example in accepting limits and
Do I set a good example in expressing gratitude?
Do I set a good example in admitting my mistakes and making
Do I set a good example in managing my emotions?
In all these areas—relationship, structure, and example—am I
I don’t know about you, but I find these
questions both reassuring and convicting: reassuring because I believe I do fairly
well in several areas and convicting because I fall short in some areas. I need
to work at improving in the areas where I exhibit weakness…which leads me to
one last question: Do you love your
children? If you love your children, you will continue to grow in the areas
listed above and you will remember that when you fall short “Love covers a
multitude of sins” (Peter in 1 Peter 4:8).
While studying for a Sunday School lesson recently, I ran across some very interesting words to describe the role of fathers. Paul used them to describe his own care for the Thessalonians. He said, “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:10-11, NASB; italics added). That description struck me. In it, Paul gives several characteristics of a great father.
A father lives the life he wants his children to live. He leads by example, behaving “devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly.” He lives “free of wrongdoing” and gives “no cause for censure or blame” regarding his own behavior. His strives to develop an upstanding and faultless reputation. That is a tall order. But fathers strive to teach their sons and daughters “to walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls them.” That lesson begins by example. Our children need to see us live a devout, upright, and blameless lifestyle before they can learn to walk in it themselves.
A father exhorts. Some versions translate the word “exhort” as “encourage.” The Greek word literally means to “call to one’s side; to call near” so you can comfort, exhort, instruct, or encourage. To me, the interesting aspect of this word is the basic idea of “calling to one’s side.” A father does not parent from a distance. He parents up close. He invites his children into his life. He comes alongside his children and walks through life with them. He invites his children to walk beside him through life’s summer days and winter storms so they can observe his actions and words. He walks with his children through good times and bad, leading by example. This requires an intimate involvement in all aspects of his children’s lives as they encounter a full variety of life situations. In each situation, a father calmly walks by his children’s side, instructing through word and example how to best respond in an upright and blameless way.
A father encourages. The Greek word used in this instance is used only three other times in the New Testament. In one instance Paul uses the word to instruct others to “encourage the fainthearted” (1 Thessalonians 5:14—NASB). The other two instances are found in the passage describing Lazarus’ funeral. The townspeople were “consoling” Mary and Martha for the loss of their brother. Fathers comfort their children. Fathers encourage children when they become discouraged. They strengthen their children when they feel weak. They build their children up, especially when the world beats them down. Fathers walk with their children through grief and hardship, toward a hopeful future.
Finally, a father implores. The Greek word translated “implore” means to “affirm what one has seen, heard, or experienced.” In other words, a father teaches his children based on his life experience and knowledge. There is vulnerability in this. To teach from experience a father has to remain open. He exhibits a willingness to reveal embarrassing mistakes and failures, not just successes, so his children can learn. He accepts his own mistakes and even apologize when necessary, teaching his children to take personal responsibility for wrongdoings and make amends. A father is also willing to affirm what he sees in his children, both areas of strength and areas of need, in a gentle and loving manner.
Think about what this passage tells us about a father. A father lives the kind of life he wants his children to live. He takes the time to come alongside his children and he invites them into his life. He spends time with his children; and, within this intimate relationship, he can encourage and comfort, instruct and teach. That is a GREAT father!