Don't miss number 6! These lessons are applicable to ALL parents, but fathers especially need encouragement and role models in this parenting journey. Where fatherhood is honored, children thrive. Dads, take note and take heart: You MATTER to your kids and these tips can make a difference.

6 fatherhood lessons I wish all men could learn

Don't miss number 6! These lessons are applicable to ALL parents, but fathers especially need encouragement and role models in this parenting journey. Where fatherhood is honored, children thrive. Dads, take note and take heart: You MATTER to your kids and these tips can make a difference.My husband is the one who taught our children to drive, but his wisdom didn’t begin and end with the stop’s and the go’s. Much of what I saw him teach them from the passenger’s seat, I watched him model in his parenting steps.

All three kids learned to drive the same little sedan.
About the time one would be ready to buy a newer car, the next in line was ready to start driving.
For a while there, it seemed our lives revolved around teaching them to drive and launching them to fly.

Our nest is almost empty, but there are other men coming up behind and wondering how to do this thing called fatherhood. Here are six things they could learn from the father of my children.

Launching kids into young adulthood is not for the faint of heart. Neither is teaching them to drive.

6 Fatherhood Lessons

1. This is life and death. Someone has to be in charge.

My husband was so good at this.
With a calm and confident perspective, he gave instruction.

If they didn’t appreciate it, it didn’t disturb him.
When they were behind the wheel, both their lives and his were on the line.
And so he wouldn’t hesitate to grab the wheel if they were about to be in danger.

The same philosophy is true with many aspects of child-rearing.
They don’t need a friend. They need a parent.
They need someone who will be large and in charge and not hesitate to save their lives if it comes to that.

2. The time will come to leave the parking lot.

In the beginning, I tried to assist in the parent-taught driving with our oldest child.
He still tells stories about my reactions to his swerving in the parking lot.
That was when we knew this had to be a dad-thing.

If it had been up to me, they might all still be in the parking lot.
Their dad knew when they had practiced enough and were ready to learn the rest in real-time.

He wasn’t afraid to take them out on the streets
because he knew what he had taught them in the parking lot.

Each child was different. Our son was ready for the road long before our daughters. My husband was as good at studying our children as he was at teaching them.

This is the key. Know your child. Work on their weaknesses at home, but encourage them to take their strengths out on the road for a test drive while you’re still along for the ride.

And learn the difference between big roadblocks and small speed bumps.

3. Teaching them to merge is one of the most important lessons.

Our baby learned to drive in the.most.convoluted town I’ve ever known.
If you want to go left, it’s not that simple.
You must make a 270-degree turn, merging with oncoming traffic at least once and maybe twice. Those blasted cloverleafs are all over the place.

Thus, she practiced merging often with her dad, and when he was in that passenger seat, he looked back with her every.single.time to confirm it was clear to merge.

Merging is a serious and tricky business. 
But the more she practiced it under his supervision, the more proficient she became, knowing what traffic to join and when to hang back.

Teaching our children how to intersect with the world and when to choose an alternate path is one of the most important lessons we will ever impart. They can’t be expected to “just know” how to do it. Be deliberate and thoughtful in choosing how and when to let them begin experiencing the world while they still have you looking over their shoulder.

4. Running commentary is important.

This is where I have the upper hand on my husband. You see, talking is my thing.

But even being a man of few words, he knew he had to talk about all they were seeing and what the kids should be observing as they raced down the highway at 60 mph.

Once he had modeled commentary, it was their turn to talk.
He would say things like, “Keep going; tell me everything you’re seeing and what you’re going to do.

The parent-taught driver training manual we followed offered this advice:

“When teens repeatedly stop commenting,
they may be tired or overwhelmed, signaling that the lesson should end.”

I think that piece of instruction should be copied into a parent launching manual as general advice.

The key is to keep them talking but to also know when to let them be silent. 
But if they have entered into a silent time, it’s probably best that they aren’t out on the streets.

5. Enjoy the drive.

With our youngest, I ended up as co-teacher when my husband was on the road for work. My time riding shotgun next to her offered the unexpected serendipity of time in her presence.

Isn’t that how so much of our time with our children ultimately passes?
We think of the process of raising them as a responsibility and forget it’s a privilege and a blessing.

And this is the thing I believe my husband excels at most.
In fact, he’s always counseled me to keep normal life at 80% capacity so I can absorb the inevitable 20% drama without becoming overwhelmed.

I’m still a work in progress on this, but he is a master.
And our kids know it. Dad always has time. Even when he doesn’t.
He knew what mattered and they knew they were at the top of that list.

Children know if you view them as a burden or as a blessing, and they are always listening.
Keep this in mind when you’re talking about the demands of parenting when they are in earshot.

6. Give them a key.

This might seem obvious, and with the driving analogy, it is.
However, I’m talking about the key to your home, your heart, and your kitchen table.

They need to know they can always come home, and they can always talk to you. In the most extreme cases of rebellion or sin, there may be boundaries you put in place, but I’m talking normal “launching” behavior.

They are going to mess up. They are going to fail you. They are going to hurt your feelings. They aren’t going to notice all your sacrifices and they WILL take you for granted.

This is important: Guilt trips don’t bring them home.
In fact, guilt trips send them to other destinations. Don’t tie your availability to listen to their performance on the driving test of life.
Paul didn’t exclude headstrong teens when he wrote these inspired words:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
(Rom. 12:18)

When our son began the process of separating, he very typically projected an attitude of “I’ve got this.” There were heated moments as he refused to hear what my husband thought on subjects my husband knew well.

I watched my man intentionally choose to stop giving advice and just listen and support our 20-something son. This didn’t mean he always agreed with him, but he deliberately chose to NOT do or say anything that would create a rift. This was the man who had always parented with strength and decision. As it turned out, the greatest strength I witnessed were the muscles he flexed when he decided to keep his mouth shut.

I asked him about it one day. He said something like this, “All through the years of raising him, I prioritized being his parent instead of his friend. Now it’s time to learn how to be his friend.”

He did learn. I watched it play out and a few months ago, my husband received a text that began like this, “Dad, you were right …”

I can’t promise how short or how long it will take for them to finish testing their wings and decide they actually like the old nest, but if you will do your part to keep from barricading the door, they will eventually turn the key.

Once they turn the key and step inside, invite them to the kitchen table and ask, “How was your trip?”

 

P.S. Get your FREE mini-eBook!

Parents need encouragement on some of the deepest levels.
This short guide 5 things Parents of Teens Need to Hear is the launching manual I wish I had and it’s free for my email friends. Click here or below.

Free ebook for parents of teens

Other Book Recommendations:

Five of these books are still on our bookshelves. Most of them are tattered from loaning them out over and over.

We used Life on the Edge as the basis for a Junior High retreat. It’s SO good!

Yes, the books are older. If you want advice on restricting cell phone usage or limiting internet time, there are plenty of blog posts out there. But if you’re looking for well-seasoned advice that speaks to the heart of the issues, these are the books I recommend.

Parenting today's adolescentLife on the EdgeWhy do they act that way?5 love languages of teensAge of OpportunityParenting teens with love and logic

Notes:
Why do they act that way is NOT Christian, but I have loaned and recommended it to many junior high parents looking to get a little understanding into the changing world of teens.

Parenting Teens with Love & Logic is worth checking out, but it’s not a personal recommendation. I’ve heard good things about it and place it here for you to check out.

 

Encouraging You as You Inspire others,

Christi
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Free ebook for parents of teens


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