We recently spent a week on the beach for our annual family vacation. I enjoy the break from the normal rigors of life for obvious reasons. But I also enjoy the retrospective time such a vacation provides for me. Unfortunately, this retrospective time pointed out my failure as a dad.
I go into every family vacation with a personal goal to say yes to almost any request from my children or wife. When one of the kids say, “hey dad, we want to bury you in the sand.” My answer is yes. “Dad, can we go get ice cream tonight?” Yes. Thankfully, my family doesn’t abuse this goal of mine by making outlandish requests.
You might ask why this personal goal is so important during our vacation time. Well, it’s because I recognize one of my largest failures as a dad. I say no to my children way too often. Back home and during the typical work week, I receive various requests from my children. “Dad, come play basketball with me.” “Dad, do you want to play Xbox with me?” “Dad, can we go to the grocery store? I really want some milk.”
“No” is often my response. Now I don’t usually respond with such a harsh and short response. It usually sounds something more like, “buddy, maybe in a minute. I’m really tired right now.” Or “Sweetie, I really need to work on this blog article right now.” Softening the response in this way seems to soothe my conscience. But it is still equally disheartening to my children.
So what do I do about this failure? How can I change it?
Recognize my failure
Each time I decline to spend time with or do something special with one of my children, I’ll telling that child something else is more important. Remember, they are just asking for my time and energy in these requests. There are appropriate times to say no. “Hey dad, can I get a pet rattlesnake?” Um, no! But when a legitimate request to play basketball with my son comes my way, I must recognize if I decline he now thinks I have something more important than basketball with him. And if I decline his similar requests on a consistent basis, his perception shifts to the notion I have more important things in my life than him.
The purpose of recognizing my failure isn’t to beat myself up. It is simply meant to be an acknowledgement of the impact my rejection has on my children. All too often, this impact isn’t even recognized by us dads. It is only through recognition that we can begin to change our no into a yes.
Examine my motives
At times, there are legitimate reasons that I have to decline a child’s request for my time. I recall one time my son wanted to play basketball but I was suffering from serious back pain. I couldn’t play basketball with him due to the pain. Other times I’m truly busy with something else at the moment. In these cases, it is okay if I decline their requests (as long as I explain properly – see next section of this article).
On the other hand, occasionally I will decline a child’s request simply because I’m tired. Or maybe I’m watching something on the television. It could even be that I’m writing a blog article. And other times they may be asking me to do something I really don’t like doing. After examining my motives, I have to face the fact being tired, watching television, or writing are just excuses. Those things are not more important than time with my children.
Say yes or explain
So obviously if I say yes to my child’s request for my time, the problem is solved. But in those cases I find myself saying no, I must force myself to explain to my child why I’m saying no. Too often we dads just brush these requests aside with a simple “not right now”, “give me a minute”, or “maybe later buddy.” No explanation is given.
But when I force myself to explain my reasons to my child, excuses are quickly identified. Consider again the basketball request from my son. “Dad, will you come outside to play basketball with me?” Now imagine my attempt to look into my son’s eyes and explain to him “Son, I can’t play basketball with you right now because I’m watching the news on television.” Having to say it our loud and to my son forces me to recognize that my son is much more important than watching the news. Besides, the news will just be more of the same tomorrow.
Change my language
What started as my failure can now become a raging success. Simply because I chose to recognize my failure, examine the problem, and take action to resolve it. It would only remain a failure if I do nothing about it. Now that I’ve worked to resolve the issue, I think I’ll go back and change the title of this article to “My Success As A Dad.”
Oh, and by the way, I did have to say no to one of my children’s requests while we were on vacation. They ask me to ride on some ridiculous sling shot contraption that flings you half way to the moon. My initial response to their requests was “sure, I’ll ride it.” But then I saw it. While I maintained my response of yes they could ride it, I wisely decided this was a legitimate time for me to decline to spend time with my children. Check out the video from my Facebook page below.
1) Examine your motives for decline requests from your children
2) Force yourself to say yes or explain why you are saying no
3) Enjoy more time well spent with your children
4) Tell me some of the things you do with your children in the comments below