As Men, Husbands, and Fathers we navigate the delicate balance between home, work, hobbies, and friends on a daily basis.
At the same time, men are not exactly known for their ability to remember plans...
Speaking from experience here, I can quote a line from a movie I saw once as child or remember the technical specifications of the SR-71 Blackbird from a book I read 3 years ago, but I don't remember the conversation my wife and I had about plans for the weekend, let alone the plan itself!
On the other hand, children have an incredible ability to remember everything it seems. Whether intentional words said, words hurled in frustration, or even those comments made casually in passing, it was heard and it will be remembered.
This is especially important to know as a father.
Give Me 2 Minutes
This is my current area of improvement.
A request from your child that's met with the seemingly harmless response, "Absolutely, give me 2 minutes and we can do that bud!"
I feel good about myself, I said 'yes' to something he wanted to do. I just need to do this real quick!
There is nothing wrong with this at all. As long as 2 minutes means 2 minutes.
To us, those 2 minutes really mean "yes, later", "when I'm done with this", or "however long it takes". The specific time is negligible, and odds are, in the middle of those 2 minutes you will get distracted by something you didn’t account for. Before you know it, those 2 minutes have become 10 minutes, and after that forgotten.
However, to our children, those 2 minutes are an eternity of anxious anticipation.
And all too often, we allow that anticipation to turn into disappointment.
It's easy to underestimate how seriously children take our words. In their minds, those 2 minutes are sacred. They've set their internal clocks to countdown, eagerly awaiting the moment when they can engage with their father.
For my oldest son, it's no longer just his internal clock ticking. If I say "yes give me 2 minutes", he sets a timer! He holds me accountable, which I love. But unfortunately, I believe that has come about because of the many times my 2 minutes have become 10 or 20 or more.
Overall, this sense of innocent anticipation can either build strong connections or can breed distrust.
Make sure your 2 minutes are 2 minutes.
Do What You Say
The underlying principle is simple but important: Do what you say.
Promising something and not following through erodes trust, not only in the immediate situation but in the long-term relationship as well.
Children are keen observers. they watch and absorb every interaction, forming a perception of the world around them based on their experiences.
As their father, you are a primary shaper of this world perception.
You are their daily experience.
When we fail to deliver on our promises, we inadvertently teach children that words are empty and commitments are disposable.
What seems like a small action, if continuously repeated, can roll, gain momentum, and influence behavior and skew personality as they grow.
In addition, the value of your words as a father has now been diminished.
As soon as your actions don't back up your words, your words become meaningless.
While this applies to many aspects of life, in the focus of our children it is especially important.
Do what you say to ensure your words hold value.
Keep Your Promises
So, what can we do to ensure that our words hold value and we do what we say?
Well, that may look different to each of us. Primarily it comes down to knowing yourself and your weaknesses.
My weakness, in this realm, is short term memory.
There have recently been times where I'm so engrossed in what I am going that I don't even remember saying the words "later" or "2 minutes".
Because of this, I know I need to put measures into place and be intentional when my boys ask something of me.
Below are a few thoughts that have helped me. If you have other ideas, let me know in the comments!
Set Realistic Expectations
Before making a promise, assess whether the timeframe you're suggesting is feasible. Understand and remember that children are literal and that 2 minutes means 2 minutes. Perhaps its 10 minutes or an hour that you think you will need. Be honest and ensure you do not allow the anticipation turn to disappointment.
Timers and Reminders
This is my go to. Recognize your own limitations and use tools at your disposal like timers and/or reminders. If the promise is 10 minutes, set a 10-minute timer. When the timer goes off, have the discipline to walk away from what you are doing at that very moment.
If the promise is the next day or next week, set a calendar reminder.
If for some reason the circumstances change and you can't fulfill a promise, be open and honest with your child. Explain why and assure them that you'll make it a priority as soon as possible. Don't leave them hanging in anticipation limbo.
Recognize Mistakes and Ask Forgiveness
If you do miss the mark and shoot past your 2 minute time frame, take the time to discuss it with your child. Don't make excuses. Apologize for the delay and ask for their forgiveness. This not only teaches accountability but also demonstrates that even adults make mistakes.
Give definite answers to your children and mean it. Whether it’s a specific time or a "yes" or "no" answer, don't allow them to sit in the limbo of "later" or "maybe". If it’s a specific time, set a timer. If "no", do not give in if they persist, no means no. If "yes", you be the one to remember your promise and make it happen.
Like most of the articles I write, I do so as a reminder and accountability method for myself.
I don't always get this right. In fact, I've been lagging, not willing to commit to activities so "later" and "maybe" have been recent words of choice.
So I say this to you as I preach it to myself, keep your word. Do what you say to ensure your words hold value, especially to those on whom you have such a profound impact.
Be Present. Be Intentional.
- Chad Vrla
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