One of the things that is the most important to us as men is that our wives and children respect us. I think for many men respect comes before love in order of importance to the male psyche. But, I won’t debate that here today. Instead, I want to talk about something that in many ways may run counter to the notion of respect.
The opposite of respect is, of course, disrespect. And as dads we cannot tolerate that from our children. But consider for a moment the importance of being silly with your children. Did you catch that? I said that it is important to be silly with your children. Why is that important?
Many times our kids see us as the great enforcers of rules and the sucker of all that is fun out of life. They could never have known us when we were wearing togas to toga parties in college. They never saw us perform some goofy skit in the Fall Fun Fest our sophomore year. In their eyes we are the one who goes to work every day and comes home too tired to play.
So what do we do? I don’t know. It is hard to plan these sorts of things. But be spontaneous. The next time you need to pick up all of the dirty clothes from your child’s room, do it together and make a silly contest out of seeing how many dirty socks, shorts and shirts you can stuff in your pants. And then waddle to the laundry room with the dirty clothes sticking out of your pockets and waistband and dump them in the washing machine. OK, that isn’t the greatest idea in the world, but I was being spontaneous!
And there is a practical side to all of this. We all want to raise kids who are resilient and able to bounce back quickly from peer pressure and stressful moments. As parents, we seem to have the belief that teens become resilient by being tough, assertive, and able to stand up for themselves. And this is true in part. But I will let you in on a secret. Teens who have the easiest time navigating those difficult transitional years are the ones who carry a toolbox or handbag or backpack with a variety of personality traits in it. One of the most important trait is the ability to be a little silly and yet still remain self-confident. The key is that they have the ability to be flexible and adapt as the situation dictates.
So what is the leadership principal on this Fatherhood Friday?
Dad, you need to get down on the floor and be silly with your children. The good news is that you will know that you are doing it right when your wife pretends to be upset that you are all acting that way. But inside, you made her smile and you made her heart leap. And your children will never forget that you played with them like that.