“Any man can be a father. But it takes a special person to be a dad.” – Proverb
I love being a dad. Nothing makes me smile more and want to thank God for all His blessings—than when I stare at my daughter when she’s just fallen asleep and I marvel at how beautiful and amazing a creation she’s been to my life.
I love being with Jana. We sit on the floor and play Korean jackstones. She tells jokes while I laugh. I make funny faces while she falls off the sofa. I spend as much time as I can with her. Because here’s my belief: every minute spent with your child is never a wasted minute.
Reading books? This is one activity—from the time Jana was six months old up until today—that my wife Jasmin and I strongly believe in. And so if she asks that we grab two books and that I read aloud the Berenstain Bears while she reads Arthur’s “Meet The President,” I never say no.
Hugging. Jana and I hug. A lot. I also kiss her a lot. But while before when she was three she allowed that I plant a smack on her lips, today, at eight years old, she veers away. So here’s what I do: while she’s asleep, I steal a kiss on the lips. So kiss your child. A lot. Remember, once they’re older, they’ll kiss somebody else.
Know her friends. My daughter’s best friend is Hiroko. And so I try to be Hiroko’s friend. I talk to her, tell her jokes, and play with both her and Jana. What does this accomplish? It tells my daughter this: Dad is cool. Though he’s much older, he plays with me and my friends.
Say “I love you.” Each time I leave the house, each time I say goodnight, and each time I get the chance, I tell my daughter how much I love her. Children need to hear these words. An “I love you” overdose is good medicine.
Go out on dates. I love this. Whenever my wife has a meeting that leaves us alone, I cherish it. We go to Jollibee or Dimsum Break. It doesn’t matter where but that moment when you’re sitting across each other, talking, laughing, wow, that’s precious. Those moments children never forget.
Sports? Of course. And since this is a sports column, I’m obligated to sprinkle sports talk. I’m lucky to have a daughter who loves sports. Football. Tennis. Biking. Wall-climbing. Swimming. Maybe she never had a choice. From the moment she could crawl or throw or run from one end of her crib to the other, I threw Jana a barrage of sports lessons.
Here’s an example: Hours after she was born, I whispered to her ears, “Jan, the women’s no.1 is Martina Hingis.” My wife shook her head in disbelief at how I’d brainwash my daughter.
School. Now that, for most, it’s back, here’s an important reminder: celebrate success. If your child scored perfect in an exam of 25 questions, pat her at the back. You don’t have to over-celebrate (because too much applauding can also hurt a child) but acknowledging good effort is essential.
Here’s one more tip. Jana calls the game, “Big Step.” She studies hard for an exam and when she’s ready, we both stand beside each other as her mom asks an exam question. Whoever gets the correct answer—her, usually, because she studied—moves forward one step until the imaginary finish line is reached. What does this do? It challenges Jana, encourages her to study hard so she’ll “win the game,” we bond as a three-some family, and have fun.
I know I’ve been all-positive-talk and understand that children also need to be disciplined. Just two points on this:
First, “walk the talk.” If you want your children to learn respect, show it. If you want her to greet “Good morning” to elders, show it. Simple yet often forgotten. Believe me, our children are more intelligent than we think.
Second: criticize the act, not the person. Punish your child if you have to and explain why he did wrong. But focus on the action. Words like “You’re hard-headed” or “You’re no good” do no good. So punish, if you have to; but focus on the act—and embrace after.
Finally, to all the dads reading this, here’s probably the most valuable lesson we can teach our children… Love their mother.