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Listen up folks: it’s not often we get a blog from a dad. Heck. It’s not often we see dads too actively involved, period, just due to deployment schedules, geo bachelor orders, work ups and whatnot. This dad shares his point of view, and how he learned to change his parenting style. He shares how much he loves his child – how willing he is to do what is best for his son, regardless of the fact that it is outside of his comfort zone. This is a good dad. His lesson learned, that loving another person is about the other person, is one we can all take home. (KLH)
I was a lucky kid. I grew up with two good parents who made sure I ate the right things, did my homework, put me in good schools, and instilled discipline into my character. Along the way I’ve had great teachers and coaches who contributed to that effort. I like to think that as a kid I was, and continue to be as a husband and military officer, very ‘coachable’ about not continuing poor behavior. By ‘coachable,’ I mean that at most things, I usually only needed to be told once, and whether I was told with a frown and a phrase expressing disappointment, or with a scream and threats of physical exertion I’d have to endure if I didn’t change my ways, I usually got it pretty quick. (Although my wife may disagree with that assertion on certain matters around the house…)
This translated to how I raised my kids. Usually when I tell them something, I expect pretty instant obedience. When my dad told me to do something, the ‘now’ part of that command was implied. Noncompliance and disobedience usually meant I upped the ante by raising my voice, and as I was conditioned, threatening some physical challenge to wear them out physically and mentally…sound body, sound mind, as the saying goes.
My younger boy never responded to this. His normal reaction was to become defiant. Like an idiot, my emotional outbursts at his continued defiance would only get worse, spiraling things out of control. (Keep in mind, my frustration was a fraction of my wife’s: whatever I dealt with, she dealt with ten times over.) A few months ago, my wife was smart enough to ignore my doubts and get him tested by a professional to see if there was something else going on, and low an behold, he is a pretty clear case of Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiance Disorder.
Over the past few months, we’ve learned new techniques to help him develop properly, dealing with these conditions. At first these new techniques were difficult for me to accept. Displaying any kind of emotion for me was off the table. Ignoring his arguing, wayyyy more patience, and learning the 1-2-3 method of behavior modification were in. In many cases the new techniques didn’t feel right to me–I didn’t feel like I was parenting. What I had been doing worked fine for my development, it should work for him, right? It took a few weeks for me to realize the obvious: this wasn’t about me. Or what worked for me. Or what parenting style was comfortable for me.
It was about him. If real love means you love something more than you love yourself, then if I really loved him, I needed to show it as a father by parenting the way that he responded to, not the way I was comfortable doing so. Don’t get me wrong, the goal is still the same: to turn that little boy into a man with character and discipline, and a host of other traits he’ll need to be a good man. Only the method is different. The method that worked for me clearly doesn’t work for him, so selfishly and knowingly sticking to my guns isn’t showing him love, only crippling his development.
So on this Valentine’s Day, I’m reminded that love for another is never about me…that each of my children is not only different from each other, but different from me…and that I show my love by not being afraid to cast aside any preconceived notions I have about child rearing, and do what’s best for each of them, rather than what’s easiest for me.
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