Retrospect On Ten Years Of Fatherhood
I became a father ten years ago and the whole journey was one giant learning and development experience like no other.
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Today marks 10 years of me becoming a parent.
It's a truly emotional realisation to think about this.
What to say about 10 years of this incredible experience?
I could write about my son Ernie, but instead I choose to write about myself and my self discoveries.
I will break it down as well as I can with intention that this post will be useful to other parents who are on a similar path to me.
I'm 35 and I've been a dad for 10 years.
Many people in developed world today cannot even comprehend this kind of a 'lifestyle'.
If I tell them my situation, majority of people find it quite astonishing.
Some think I'm in this situation through a mistake I made.
Others think I made a wrong bunch of decisions in life and miscalculated it all.
The truth is, I'm exactly where I always wanted to be in my life.
Here are 10 takeaways I can share from 10 years of fatherhood.
Children are wiser than us
Every time I speak to Ernie he ends up teaching me something.
He always makes me aware of something I wasn't aware of before.
He knows me almost better than I know myself.
Conversing with him is truly insightful and valuable.
The worst thing we can do to children is to think that they don't know things.
They are wiser than us.
Being a parent means being able to see almost in real time how a human person develops.
Children give you true, unedited and real time insight into how they are thinking and feeling.
This is one of the most educational aspects of life.
When coaching adults, change is harder to observe and understand.
With children, it is visible and considerable.
As parents, we have to be cognisant of this continuous change and keep up with it if we want our children to achieve their potential.
Every 3 months or so, children at these age ranges go through significant shifts in their abilities and consciousness.
Keep up with the visible changes.
From the previous point I learnt that the best way to parent is through practising the art of developmental coaching.
Recognising first two points I made is essential for getting the child to develop.
We have to develop with them as we go along, otherwise the relationship falls apart.
Instead to preaching at them, telling them what to do or straight up teaching them, we coach them and develop alongside with them.
They are making us wiser as much as we can make them wiser.
It's a two way process.
A great father is a great father.
He doesn't just talk about it, he acts it.
I realised this early on also, so I always put all my effort into being a great role model for Ernie.
Instead of being a thought leader, I practice being a be leader.
I don't act anything out.
I am what I am and embrace the best practices I always talk about.
The congruence of my behaviour has the most effective, positive impact on Ernie's behaviour.
This is what many people recognise as young boys needing from their fathers.
A strong, well structured role model to emulate and learn from.
This is not an intuitive behaviour for many people.
Parents' role isn't to keep their children to themselves forever.
It's to prepare them for independence in the best way possible.
This can only be done through the process of what I would call intentional detachment.
I don't detach from Ernie by ignoring him.
I keep an eye on him, but remove myself from the process whenever possible.
Even when I talk to him, I ask him questions most of the time and listen to what he says.
It's a form of detachment, as it helps him develop his own thoughts without me having to 'fill his mind up' with what I'm thinking.
I'm also cognisant of the fact that Ernie is ahead of me in terms of what he values.
He senses the future better than I do.
So I let that be the way it is and only get involved if I notice he is going out of the wise path for whatever reason.
Overall, true love towards someone reflects in our ability to let go of them and grant them their independence.
Practical beats verbal all the time
A practical demonstration is much more valuable than verbal description.
If anything, I constantly show Ernie the Design Thinking process.
Rather than talking about things, I move towards sketching, ideating and prototyping whenever possible.
This helps Ernie understand things better and speeds up the process of describing for me too.
And it is much more fun for both of us.
Children best learn through play, so I always devise new games with Ernie to explain things.
Live in their world
A 10 year old doesn't know the world as well as a 35 year old does.
So we need to live as much in their world as possible.
Children these days play all sorts of different games and watch YouTube videos on subjects we don't even know exist.
Being aware of their world and not rejecting it helps me be Ernie's good friend.
It is also a great learning opportunity for me to understand what is popular with young people and why.
As a designer, I'm always observing him and adapting to the things he likes to do.
In the process I expose him to concepts I know will be useful for him for the rest of his life.
As I already stated, children today know a lot!
They are living in a continous sea of information through various media.
They also have excellent access to good quality knowledge books.
Ernie is a big, big reader.
He laps up a book a day.
Through this, his lingustic skills have developed amazingly well.
That has led to greater understanding of various subject matters.
Ernie retains information and knowledge at an incredible rate.
All of this adds up to him often teaching me about things I have no idea about.
There is no reason to lie to children.
There is no reason to pretend.
Just be real, honest and straight forward towards them.
They will appreciate it and like you for it.
This applies to all sorts of situations and states of mind.
If I don't feel like doing something, I say it and suggest an alternative.
Often a time it's a bit of a 'barter' process of a sort.
Everything in the end works out well.
Push them through game
Parent's role is to enable their children achieve the most of their potential.
Today's children don't respond to being pushed to do things.
They love to play, all the time.
Playing is the major way through which they learn and through which you can help shape their behaviour.
They emulate so much of our behaviour and information.
It is only through games that I'm able to reach Ernie and pass valuable knowledge and wisdom to him.
Never character judge
Telling anyone what they are like or who they are is just plain wrong.
Instead we can talk about people's actions.
If Ernie did something unwise, the best thing to do is to explain to him how his action was unwise.
It makes him think about his actions, while helping him preserve his character and not making him personally feel bad about himself.
We all make mistakes and learn through them.
It's our actions that were wrong, not so much us, as we didn't know better at the time of doing it.
Talk about what the actions are like, not what the people are like.
You're always winging it
Someone once told me that: 'As a parent you are always winging it, because you've never been in this situation before.'
I don't think any book can really teach you how to be a great parent.
You need to be cognisant of yourself at all times and work on yourself as much as your children.
So, yes you are winging it through your life as a whole.
And since you are winging it, spread your wings and enjoy the flight.
Published on: 19 Jan 2017