My sweet little Claire is wonderful. Claire is kind, loving, intelligent, and as stubborn as a mule. At three years old, Claire is showing that she is her own person and will do what she wants, when she wants. This would be fine if Claire was 25 years old and living in her own place. However, at 3 years old and in my house, this isn’t going to fly.
It is quite amazing to see how strong-willed this little girl is. No matter if it’s what clothes she wants to wear, when she wants to eat, or whether playtime is over, Claire lets you know her desires without any hesitation. I find myself, at moments, wondering where the line should be drawn between letting her be this strong-willed, little person and needing to “break her in”.
I’ve been reading about strong-willed kids and the positive side is that, while early on they can be tough, they will grow to become great teenagers, capable of holding on to their integrity and not easily peer-pressured. This comes as great news to this father.
Here are a few things I’ve discovered so far about parenting a strong-willed child:
- Choices are essential: Early on I learned that asking Claire what she wanted was the wrong question to ask. Strong-willed kids want to be in charge of their choices, so if you ask them what they want, they will tell you without hesitation. The problem comes when their response isn’t an option you are willing to accept. I now word my questions like so: “Claire, which of these three outfits do you want to wear?” I have preselected the three outfits so I can live with whatever choice she makes. It is a win-win for both of us. This has been huge in dealing with food, clothes, and activities.
- “I wanna do it myself!”: This comes out of my daughter’s mouth anytime there is anything to be learned, experienced, or explored. Claire is not okay with mom or dad telling her that getting too close to the fireplace could burn her. Claire wants to feel the heat on her skin and see why she shouldn’t get that close. I’ve realized that Claire learns better when she can experience what we are talking about. I guess this can be applied to most people; however, there is a clear need for Claire to understand things by “doing it her self.” As long as there is a safe way for this to happen, it is worth doing.
- Raising my voice is pointless: This is really hard for me. My personality is pessimistic by nature, so when my daughter does something I disapprove of, it shows. I naturally raise my voice to confront Claire when she is doing something wrong and this causes her to become defensive. My wife constantly reminds me that a calm, cool voice will go a long way when disciplining. When I am able to listen to my wife’s wisdom, Claire is willing to listen as well.
- Strong, yet gentle leadership: We hear from counselors, psychologists, and all kinds of experts that children need discipline and guidance. Yet, the strong-willed child wants to be the master of his or her own destiny. As parents, we need to have just the right balance of strength and gentleness when leading these kids. I wrote a post a while ago about the strength of men. I think this post explains that balance well.
- Expect it to be challenging: Parenting in general is hard. When my daughter asserts her strong will it shouldn’t come as a surprise. I know that my daughter is going to want to do it her way. I know my daughter will want to question or challenge what I say. Therefore, I’ve learned we must be preemptive with strong-willed children. Think about what your child might do or say when you tell them it’s time to eat, or take a bath, or put toys away. When I expect my daughter to do it “my way” and it doesn’t work out I have myself to blame.
So, there you go. This is just some of what I have observed/learned so far. Nothing terribly complicated, but it’s so much easier said than done. Maybe our next kid will be willing to accept a simple, “because I said so.”
A couple of weeks ago my wife told me about this “Daddy-Daughter-Dance” that our local YMCA was putting together. It was going to be a two-hour event where we would dress up, get our picture taken, make crafts, eat snacks, dance and get an ice cream Sunday. I signed up for it and told my daughter about it. Claire was very excited. It is really interesting seeing how Claire was able to recognize that this was going to be a special event just for her and I. Leading up to the dance Claire would talk about going and how it would be fun.
About a week before the dance Claire got a package in the mail from her aunt. Auntie had heard that Claire was going to a dance and bought her a slick pair of black dress shoes. The shoes solidified for Claire that this dance was a big deal. Apparently a woman’s DNA is wired to respond to shoes in a way that I simply cannot quite wrap my mind around. Shoes = big deal. I guess this is a universal norm.
The day of the dance Claire was talking about it and I was busy working on the closet shelving system I was installing. As I finished my project I jumped into the shower and quickly dressed. My wife was busy getting Claire ready. At one point I walked by Claire’s room and saw her in her dress and she said, “No Papi. Not yet. I not ready.” I complied and walked away. Once my wife was done getting our daughter ready, Claire walked out with a big smile and a look that clearly sought my approval. I told Claire how beautiful she was and it was obvious that she was eating up my words, smiles and hugs.
She was stunning.
The rest of the night was great. I twirled my daughter around on the dance floor, told her how beautiful, strong and smart she was. We made a ladybug craft and ate too much ice cream. Our picture was terrible (the “picture people” were not pros) but the overall night was fantastic. Claire recognized that she captivated me; that her father genuinely desired to spend this time with her. The other fathers at the dance were equally captivated by their daughters—it was really cool to see. We all had these looks of awe and wonder as we saw these glorious little beings twirl around the room.
As Claire and I drove home I realized that these two hours had been a powerful exchange between her and I. My daughter genuinely felt love from me in the form of this Daddy-Daughter-Dance. Some of my friends have taken their daughters to dances like this in the last few weeks and I have seen social media filled with pictures of little girls twirling with their dads. It’s pretty awesome!
My favorite moment at the dance was not with my own daughter; it came about when I saw one of the other dads with his daughter and another little girl who wasn’t his child. In the exchange that the girls had with the man you could tell they were not sisters. Who knows what that one girls situation is and why her daddy wasn’t there. The beautiful thing was that someone else was “daddy” in that moment, and was twirling her. This little girl was loved and more importantly, she knew that she captivated this daddy.
Categories: Catholic, christianity, daddy date, daddy daughter dance, dads, daughters, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized
Tags: daddy date, daddy daughter dance, dads, dancing, daughter, Fatherhood, fathers, YMCA
Its still mind blowing to me, but my daughter is a year old. One full year zoomed by. I’ve been looking back over the past year and here are some things I wanted to share a year in:
- You will never be ready to be a father in the grand scheme of things. You can read every book, go to seminars, pray all day—all of which are great things to do, but you will never be ready. It is okay. Be a father anyway.
- Prepare your house before the baby comes. I installed a gate on my stairs 6 months before Claire was born. It was soooo smart. Don’t wait till the baby is born!
- Sleep is over rated. Seriously, we only need a solid 5-6 hours to function. You can sleep when you die.
- Be your wife’s greatest fan. She had this child come out of her body! She deserves praise! The more you love her and serve her before and after the baby is born the easier her recovery will be and the more she will love you.
- Get involved! Sure you can’t breastfeed them at night, but you can give them a bottle, change diapers, bathe them or rock the baby to sleep. Don’t be a dead beat—man up!
- Reusable diapers are good in theory. They absolutely suck in practice. You want to be green and recycle—get a trashcan just for mixed papers. There’s your tree hugger tip of the day.
- Give your kid quality time. My daughter won’t remember the moments I spent gazing and smiling at her, or playing with her feet. Her memory won’t remember, but somehow a child is able to retain those experiences and connect with those actions, which nourishes and nurtures them.
- Go out on a date. You will probably talk about the baby all night long, but you deserve and need a night to be a couple.
- It is possible to cook, clean and do the normal things post baby—you just need to make time for it. If your anal like me, relax and know that some of those projects may take weeks instead of hours to get done.
- Take pictures and videos. Capture those moments and cute things your kids do that will disappear in the next few months. However, don’t be one of those people that lives their kids childhood through a cell phone screen.
- Give yourself away. The more you try to hold on to your time the less you will enjoy it, the less meaning you will find. Yes you need some alone time, but remember life is meant to be lived for others.
- Be interruptible: This is probably the thing I struggle with the most. If I have something planned I want it to go my way, but a lot of time there are interruptions and we have to be willing to give them permission. Sometimes those interruptions are better than anything we had planned.
Being a father is hard work, but also amazing. I’m sure next year this list will look different, but for now these are things that I have noticed and wanted to share about my journey of discovering fatherhood.