It's father’s day in Ireland, so here’s my timely take on the impact us dads can have on our kids.
Us dads, we are models.. Yeah we might not realise it but we model lots of stuff for our kids all of the time. And it’s not modelling in the fashion sense of the word but in the “monkey see, monkey do” way. Kids will replicate what they experience with parental figures. From us, they’ll learn how to live in the world.
Most parents will be familiar with the way that kids are super alert to the unspoken. They sense what is going on. They are often more attuned and naturally emphatic than ourselves. We can lose these perceptive skills as we get older. But kids have it. And they are the proverbial sponge – they soak everything in. They absorb the “ways” of their parental figures into their fibre and psyche.
As parents, and dads, we can have big impact in this regard. They will pick up on how we are in ourselves, how we look after ourselves, if we love ourselves - in a healthy way. They learn how we are in relationship, how we treat our partner and others. They’ll see how we communicate, how we confront and deal with conflict. They’ll know if we follow our dreams and value our own happiness, what we settle for, the emphasis we place on money, power and career, the priority we assign to our children, partner and work. They instinctively know if we consider their happiness and well-being when making big decisions in our lives.
The powerful side to all of this is that kids will replicate much of our behaviour. If we treat people badly, they will. If we do not attend to our own issues and health, it’s most likely they will not. If we use substances or alcohol or certain behaviours to soothe ourselves from our pain, it’s common that our children will use the same defensive behaviours later. If we run from commitment or difficulties, it’s likely their patterns will be similar. If we're contented and happy, they generally will be. If we model destructive behaviour – they will internalise this and replicate it in some way.
The really promising and beautiful aspect to all of this is that when we break new ground in ourselves, whether emotionally, psychologically or spiritually, then our kids automatically get the benefits. Because they will pick it up unconsciously. Therein is the promise and accessible bit for all parents – that the best way to influence our kids positively – is by doing it ourselves. Walking the walk rather than talking the talk.