Some time ago, I was busy minding my own business in my office, when I heard my wife talking in the next office to a stranger. I opened my door to shake hands with Bill, who was inspecting our fire services in our office on behalf of the landlord.
Bill, realising he was in the offices of Dads4Kids, started to ply me with questions about parenting.
He asked, “How should I handle disciplining my twelve year old daughter?”
I answered with a question of my own: “What do you mean?’”
“Well, it is like this,” he countered, “I have two beautiful daughters — one is nearly 17 years old, and the other is 12 years old. I don’t understand! Our elder daughter gave us no trouble; she is mature, careful, disciplined and well-mannered, but the 12-year-old is a real handful.”
I smiled knowingly and said, “All children are different, and you just have to do your best to make the adjustments you have to make as a father for each child. Treat each of your children the same, but allow for their differences, and as you accommodate their different needs and character traits, as best you are able, you will be successful.”
His questions continued: “What about the fact that my wife is much more strict a disciplinarian than I am? I think she is too harsh and she thinks I am too weak. What should I do?”
“For starters,” I retorted, “the worst thing you can do is give your children no discipline. If you don’t teach your children consequences, you are not teaching them to live in the real world.”
Discipline is essential for success, and true discipline is a product that comes from love.
What I said next came as a bit of a surprise for Bill: “The place of agreement is the place of power.” I repeated it again, hoping it would sink in. “The worst thing you can do is disagree with your wife about discipline, especially in front of your child. You MUST come into agreement.
“If she is too strict and you are too easy, probably halfway would be exactly right.”
“Children are born barristers and they will exploit your differences every time: ‘Mum said this, Dad said that.’ In the art of warfare, it’s called ‘divide and conquer.’
“You cannot afford to disagree. You will have to come to a compromise and form a united front on the issue of discipline, especially if your children are very headstrong.”
I gave him an example of the art of firm but loving compromise from the experiences of an army brigadier I knew: “His youngest daughter was incredibly messy. He and his wife tried hard to get her to be tidy, but it seemed impossible, so much so that they thought they might lose her affection because of the constant harping on her untidiness throughout the house as well as in her room.
“Her parents got together and agreed that she could be messy inside her bedroom, but outside, the rules of the home applied. The compromise worked, the house stayed tidy and they kept their daughter’s affection, which in the end, is the thing that matters.”
I also told Bill how important he is to his daughter. “When we first started Dads4Kids in 2002, I thought that it was the father/son relationship that was the main responsibility for a father, but all my years of reading and research have shown me that the father/daughter relationship is just as vital and important, perhaps more so.”
“For example, this interesting piece of research may surprise you: girls growing up without their biological father in the home menstruate 9 months earlier than those who have their father present in the home.”
Bill looked shocked, “I know what you are talking about,” he said. “All my daughter’s friends from broken homes have started their periods, but she hasn’t yet.”
“Don’t worry,” I said, “This is something to be glad about. Your daughter is secure. She feels the love between you and your wife and towards her. That love is providing security for her body clock.
“You and your wife should be encouraged for the great job you are doing raising your daughters. You are in the top 10% of dads. Most dads can’t articulate the questions you are asking.”
So, I asked Bill if I could share about our meeting and the questions he had about being a Dad with the Dads4Kids weekly newsletter, because every man needs help with these sort of questions.
Aren’t you glad he said yes?
If you are reading this newsletter on a weekly basis, you are very committed. Like the father above, you are in the top 10% of dads. I would like to congratulate you! Keep reading and keep asking those sorts of questions, because it will do your children the world of good.
Yours for more good questions,
PS: Today (Sunday) 14 February is Valentine’s Day. If you haven’t got something for your wife, better get it very quickly. If she says she does not care, she is lying. Your wife needs your special attention today and every day, but particularly today.
Read last week’s Valentine’s Day article. Don’t miss the opportunity to give your wife some attention!
[Photo by Senjuti Kundu