Episode 117 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes
Fatherhood is a wonderful adventure. This year my oldest son turned 11. Over those 11 years, I’ve learned a lot about being a dad.
Listen as I discuss 11 things I’ve learned in 11 years of being a dad. Hopefully you’ll take away one or two things that could improve your parenting and relationships with your children. I detail each of these points in the episode:
- Each child is different. Very different.
- Your children are not like you. (See Carol Tuttle’s interview here)
- What works with one, won’t always work with the other
- Don’t assume. Listen instead.
- Being a dad requires participation
- Children will mimic your every move
- Shower your kids with positive attention and praise
- Kids want to work, teach them how
- No double standards
- Sleepless nights don’t last forever
- Above all, love their mother
Today’s show is brought to you by twintshirtcompany.com, where you’ll find dozens of amazing designed t-shirts for mothers of twins, fathers of twins, and grandparents of twins. Check us out at twintshirtcompany.com.
At the time of this recording and publishing of this podcast, we are about on top of father’s day. So, happy father’s day to you, father, if you are expecting twins or you already have them, or have other kids, happy father’s day. You are awesome.
Today I want to share eleven things that I learned in eleven years of being a dad. Our twin girls are seven right now, but I have two other older boys and my oldest son just turned eleven not to long ago. And so, over these eleven years, I’ve learned a few things. A lot of it through trial and error, which is usually how we learn how to parent, and so I want to share some of the things that I’ve learned to hopefully help you along your journey as well with your children.
The first thing that I’ve learned is each child is different. Very different. Now nothing highlights this more than twins, because they have very distinct and different personalities. Even though, in our case, they are wrapped up in identical looking bodies. It is important that you remember that each of your children has their own unique personalities, and those will be harsh contrasts from one another. And that’s okay, that’s part of the joy of having children. So just remember, each child is different. Don’t try to force them into being the same, or even the same as you and you’ll be fine.
That brings us to the next one, which is number two, your children are not like you. Just like they are different from each other. They have their own inherent personalities and energies, and that’s oftentimes very different from what you exhibit. In an earlier podcast, we talked with Carol Tuttle about your different inherent energy types that you may have. I’ll reference that in the show notes at twindadpodcast.com. But one big thing I took away from her book, The Child Whisperer, is that your kids are very different types and if you try to force them into a different type, then they’re going to rebel through behavior that you do not want to see. So we have found that one of our girls is very high energy, where the rest of our family is very kind of low-key low energy. Until we realized, well that was just the way she is and she wasn’t going to be like my wife and I, who are very calm and low-energy. Until we realized that we’re having a lot of friction and problems with her behavior. But, after that it’s something to celebrate and we can parent around and customize our parenting to her. So remember, your children are not like you, they’re not going to be like your wife, and so you need to adjust your parenting to match their individual needs and temperaments.
Okay, number three. What works for one child, won’t always work with the other. Keep in mind that parenting is not a kind of set it and forget it, or a cookie cutter type of method. Your children, because they are so different, they will react differently to family rules, or to discipline, or to expectations, or to conversations that you have with them. So, just because it worked with your first child doesn’t mean it’s going to work with your second, because you have to customize how you’re parenting to each of them differently. We found this out with each of our children, we’re like okay well the first time we had this experience we did it this way so let’s try again this way. We were kind of surprised, well why is it not working? It was because the children are different and so what works with one will not always work with the other.
Okay, number four. Don’t assume anything of why your children do what they do. Listen instead. Now, listening to them when they’re very young and they can’t talk to you, requires you to usually observe. Observe their behavior. Observe their reactions. But, later they can express themselves through words, or sounds, or maybe sign language and eventually have conversations with you. That’s why it’s important that you don’t always jump to conclusions. Ask what’s going on. Ask what happened. Ask what they’re feeling. Ask questions and then listen to their reaction and their response. If you always jump to the conclusion of what you think happened, ultimately your kids are going to kind of, will shut up and not talk to you. Even when you most need them to talk to you in the future. Because as your children get older, you want to be able to have more deeper conversations with them. So, when they have things that are troubling them, or scaring them, or that big life decisions, you want to be able to be their companion. Their partner in talking through those challenges. So that starts very early when they’re very young and building that trust in you that you can be a confidante, that they can talk with you and get answers that they need.
(RELATED: Still looking for the right twin gear? See my Twin Baby Gear Essentials.)
Okay, the fifth one that I’ve learned is that being a dad requires participation. This includes showing interests in your kids interests. They may enjoy doing things or learning things that you haven’t enjoyed or you don’t enjoy right now. But part of being a dad is showing an interest in what your kids are interested in, and helping them foster their creativity, their talents, and their skills. Another place you need to be a good participant is helping around the family and around the home. So this requires you to help mom and the tasks that she is doing, helps you to be and help around the home. Chores and cooking, and taking care of the children. These things can’t just be sloughed off on your wife to do, and when you come home from work you need to focus on the things that you can do to help around the home and with the family. This does require that you are present, both mentally and physically, when you are home. So, make sure when you come home from work or when you’re home and it’s family time, hey don’t be on your phone the whole time checking your social media. Or don’t be playing video games the whole time. Focus on the one on one personal interactions you have with your children.
Okay, number six. This one, um, six I laugh at this one because you’ve probably experienced this just as well as. Children will mimic your every move, for better or for worse. They’re like little parrots and they will parrot back things you say, how you say it. If it’s yelling, if it’s screaming, if it’s quiet, if it’s sarcastic, they’re body language. Everything will be mimicked that you do and you don’t quite know all the stuff that you’re doing until you see your children do it and then you realize, Oh no, they’re copying what I’ve done and what I’ve said. And so that’s where you start to move into this behavior of, well I need to actually model the behavior I want my children to follow all the time. So remember your children will mimic your every move, and so make sure you are making the right moves.
Number seven. Shower your kids with positive attention and praise. We learned this one the hard way. When kids disobey or they are doing stuff that you don’t want them to do, that natural behavior is to be perhaps harsh with them. That can often lead to punishment or yelling at the bad behavior. We have found this then leads to a downward spiral. They keep doing bad things to get attention. When, in fact, if you switch and do the opposite where you give positive attention and praise to your children when they are doing good things, they will desire and want more of that positive praise and attention. And so by then, you’re filling up more of their time with positive and uplifting behaviors and they get more positive and uplifting attention from you. And it kind of pushes out the bad behavior that they may have been doing previously. We found that this positive parenting approach is always more effective than punishing or yelling at our children.
Okay, number eight. Kids want to work, you have to teach them how to work. So, when kids are very young they want to help all the time and the first behavior that they see you doing, maybe washing dishes or fixing something around the home, they want to do the same thing right. So, you think to yourself, well you know if they help me with this they’re just going to break it. Or it’s going to go really slow. Or they’re not going to do it right. So, it’s important that you help your kids and teach them how to work. This includes starting them on something small. Small projects. Small tasks that they can master and you’re going to have to show them how to do it. And you’re going to have to work along side them. You’re not going to be able to say, hey here’s how you rake the leaves and then you hand them the rake and go inside and watch TV. That’s just not going to work. You have to work along side them and that will help encourage them to complete the task. Ultimately they can be self-sufficient and do it themselves. So, remember don’t just delegate to your kids to do tasks or to do work. Show them how to do it, participate with them, and it will be a fun experience together.
Alright, number nine. There are no double standards in your family, or better said, there can be no double standards in your family. The old phrase, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”, applies for you as a father as well. If you’re telling your kids one thing and you become hypocritical and go do that or do the opposite of whatever it is you’re telling them to do or not do, then they’re going to see that double standard and they’re going to start wondering well how come dad can do this and we can’t do that. If you’re encouraging certain behavior in your children, you need to do that certain behavior yourself. Simple things around the home like are you eating all of your vegetables, or are you making your bed, or are you brushing your teeth. Things like this where if they see you’re not doing those things, they’re not going to want to do them either. And it’s not enough for you to just say, “hey go do that because I told you so”. So show the good example for your children and they will follow your example and your lead.
Sleepless nights don’t last forever. This is really intense with the newborn phase of your children, and particularly with twins. And the sleep deprivation is intense, it’s overpowering, but it doesn’t last forever. They’ll start to sleep through longer stretches and then you’ll be fine. Until they get sick and then you repeat the process again. You’re up all night. You don’t get a good night’s sleep and you’re a zombie the next day. Then later as your kids get older, more mature, and start making bigger life decisions, that will stress you out and wear you out, and rob you of your sleep as well. And so, sleepless nights don’t last forever. They just come and go in a cyclical pattern as your children get older.
Okay so, number eleven. Above all, love their mother. Love your wife. If you love and show that love to your wife, then your children will reflect that behavior back. They will reflect that love that they see between you and your spouse in how they treat each other, in how they treat you, in how they treat their mother, and in how they treat their future families, their future spouse, or their future children. Along the theme of modeling the behavior you want your children to see you have, to model that relationship you have with your spouse. So above all else, you love their mother and show that to them through your words and actions, and deeds. Your children will see that and they’ll feel safe in your home and they’ll feel that love for them. It will affect their behavior towards each other as well.
Okay, so there’s my eleven things that I’ve learned in eleven years of being a dad. Of course, I’ve learned a lot more than eleven things and I’m sure you have to along your journey as a dad. But, the important thing is that we are learning each day as we go each day as a new day as a parent. We learn new things. We continue that trial and error process of parenting. So it just important that as we try things, as we see that they’re working, we continue to do them and form good habits. In our parenting behaviors. In our methods of being fathers. When we try something that is not working, that we’re not stuck in that bad habit. That we’re okay letting that thing go and trying something that will be best for our family.
So, I want to wish you all a happy father’s day. As I mentioned at the top of the show, today’s episode was brought to you by twintshirtcompany.com, where you’ll find dozens of awesome t-shirt designs for fathers of twins, mothers of twins, and grandparents of twins. Check out the shirts at twintshirtcompany.com.
Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you next time.
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Original photo by Petras Gagilas