Swiftwater Journey

faith, culture, and growing up in a rapidly changing world

The Art of Fathering November 25, 2009

Filed under: Parenting — billmacphee @ 3:56 pm
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I admit an honest truth: it’s tricky being a father today. Not because dads don’t desperately desire to succeed at their role, but because what we’re supposed to do is relatively unclear. But this just might be where the problem lies. Most of us dads fixate on what we can do and accomplish rather than what we are called to be.

Maybe the defining need of children moving toward and through adolescence is a close relationship with both mom and dad. This is where father’s get tripped up as we move into action and attempt to manage and monitor parent to child relationships. Developmental scholars label this relationship by the technical term of attachment. They emphasize that the most important aspect to this connection is the perception of the child, rather than the feelings of the parent.

Dads: cultivating a close relationship with our kids is more art than science. It is felt more than accomplished. What is vital is not how we perceive the connections are going but how our son or daughter feel and perceive the intimacy of their relationship with us. Here are several key ideas in developing a close attachment with our sons and daughters that I have tried to live out:

  • Be available: not when it fits my schedule but in a way that works for my child.
  • Be accessible: physically and emotionally. My kids need to feel that they have access to my time and your heart.
  • Be present: I’m trying to look my son and daughter in the eye when I listen. Distractions abound and we must fight the temptation to fake attention.
  • Be ready: look for and anticipate the moments when my children are open for me to meet their needs. Listen and look carefully for your teenager to articulate, maybe in an awkward or veiled way, a request for your help. Don’t pounce but respond with gentle help.
  • Be encouraging: I’m watching the language I use as I connect with my kids. Look for ways to build up as you guide your son and daughter toward healthy development.

I’m not a perfect father, but I love my kids, and am trying to father them more than fix them.


Unconditional Parenting September 20, 2009

Filed under: Parenting — billmacphee @ 2:30 pm
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During a ParenTeen Seminar I often ask parents to take a moment and reflect on what they love about their kids that is not related to their performance. This sounds easy but we have been so conditioned to love and praise our kids based on what and how they are doing.

Here is an excellent NY Times article giving clear focus to the need for unconditional parenting. The author points out research that demonstrates conditional parenting can indeed invoke compliance from children but inevitably leads these same kids to resent and even dislike their parents in the long run. Here’s an excerpt:

In practice, according to an impressive collection of data by Dr. Deci and others, unconditional acceptance by parents as well as teachers should be accompanied by “autonomy support”: explaining reasons for requests, maximizing opportunities for the child to participate in making decisions, being encouraging without manipulating, and actively imagining how things look from the child’s point of view.

The last of these features is important with respect to unconditional parenting itself. Most of us would protest that of course we love our children without any strings attached. But what counts is how things look from the perspective of the children — whether they feel just as loved when they mess up or fall short.


Dad loves daughter unconditionally

Filed under: Parenting — billmacphee @ 1:39 pm
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Though this video has appeared everywhere, it is worth a second look.

Sometimes what a dad does is so much more powerful than what he says. This dad knew that the game was much more about loving his daughter than anything else. I want to be like this guy.

This video has been taken down by YouTube based on MLB licensing. Here is good commentary on the foul ball catch and release: