Parenting advice for a daddy-to-be.

I’m not a parent, but I have parents. I don’t have any nieces or nephews, but I’ve worked with kids quite a bit. Kids like me, despite my unsure feelings about them.

There’s a man who sits across the aisle from me at work who’s a fairly new employee (I’m talking less than a year). He’s a soldier who’s been deployed a couple different times to Afghanistan, and now He’s in the reserves. And he likes to talk. A lot. So much so that it drives me crazy. Literally.

Apparently he’s been engaged for 3 years. Most of us barely knew he had a girlfriend because he never talks about her. Oh, and she lives in a completely different state than he does. He took a job in Michigan, packed up and moved, and left his fiancé on her own. Anyways, the news broke that his fiancé (much to our surprise) is pregnant, so she’s demanding that he quit his job in Michigan and move back to where she lives.

So he quit his job. He moved back to be with his mysterious fiancé. He’s going to be a daddy.

“I don’t have any experience with kids…”  His words rang out as we all raised our eyebrows.

“You’ll figure it out. You’ll be a good dad.”  A coworker attempted to boost his confidence a bit.

“Yeah… hope… well… yeah, I hope so.”  The confidence boost didn’t really help.

Regardless of the fact that he got the whole “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage”  thing completely out of order, I want him to succeed in his relationship – both with his fiancé and with his future child. I’d like to see him take that coworker’s advice and marry his pregnant girlfriend.

In addition to my well-wishes, I’d like to offer him a little parenting advice – despite the fact that he’ll probably never read this post, and despite the fact that I really don’t know anything about parenting.

1. Talk less. Listen more.

Seriously. Look around and see if there’s any one else you’d rather listen to talk other than yourself. When your child is 13, 14, 16, 18 they’re not gonna care what the molecular structure of Mountain Dew is. They’re not going to care that fruit in Kandahar is contaminated by June Bug sweat. They’re not going to care how much you know until they know how much you care. Listen. Listen. Stop talking. Listen. You don’t know it all – you’ve already admitted to that. So use the two ears God gave you and listen.

2. Buy them a dog.

I understand your hatred for cats. In fact, I feel the exact same way. So buy your child a dog when they get a little older. And don’t buy them some wimpy little froo-froo pansy dog. Buy them a Pit Bull or a German Shepherd. Get them a dog that can rough them up a bit and that they can climb on. Then make them take care of it. It will teach them responsibility and scheduling. Dogs need to be walked, so do children. Dogs need to be fed, so do children. Dogs need to go outside and do… what dogs do… and children need to be outside too. It’s good for them.

3. Throw your TV away.

There is nothing worse for your child than having free-for-all, anytime-you-want access to cable TV. The same thing goes for video games. Besides the fact that there is nothing good on TV, it’s a huge waste of time. Ok, fine… I’ll amend my last statement. Not ALL of TV is bad, but the majority is. And it only gets worse as time goes by. Porn, sex, rebellious kids, drugs, crime, etc… do you really want to pump your kid full of that? I didn’t think so. Buy your kid a coloring book instead, or Battleship, or Legos. And while you’re at it, buy me some Legos too. Please and thank you.

4. Discipline. Follow-thru. Parenting.

The last thing you want to do is raise a hooligan and have to visit them bimonthly in the county jail when they’re 18. You know how you can avoid this catastrophe? By disciplining your child. True story. Despite what all the psychologists say, telling your child “no” is not going to cramp their style. Using a red pen to cross out their wrong answers is not going to hinder their creativity. Spanking them will not kill them. In fact, it will help them in the long run. Sure, no one likes to play the “bad guy,” but if you don’t step up to the plate in their childhood, they will be the literal “bad guy” when they’re older. If you tell them not to do something, stand by it. If they choose to disobey anyways, inform them of the consequences of their actions – then follow thru! Nothing says you’re a spineless wimp like telling your child you’re going to do something then backing down when they throw a fit and scream at you. Be the parent! Take control. If you don’t, the kids will.

5. Friend or Father?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that parenting is going to be so much fun! You’ll get to teach your kid how to play baseball, how to be a chick magnet (if it’s a boy), how to rule the roost, etc. But I want to remind you again of your position – you’re the father. Your job right now is not to be your child’s best friend. They don’t have to “like” you right now… they need to respect you and obey you. Don’t get so caught up in being “cool” and making your kid feel like the bomb-diggity — that’ll come with time. You need to put your foot down for the first 18 years or so. After that, you’ll have the rest of their life to be their best friend. Trust me on this one – you’ll thank me later.

And so, fellow employee of the United States Department of Defense, I wish you the best as you begin this new journey in your life. Children are a blessing from the Lord – most of them anyway… or so I’ve been told.

You’ve been entrusted with a little life. It is your responsibility to raise your child right – that’s a big task, but it’s not impossible. You never know, your baby could be the next Clara Barton, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, or Lady Gaga—wait, no, skip that one.

Enjoy every minute of it – time flies so quickly. Make good memories. Cherish every ounce of energy and emotion that goes into raising the little person you’ve been given. And remember, no one will impact their life as much as you and mommy have the potential to. Life for the next 18 years is going to be one massive game of Simon Says – everything you do, everything you say, everything you allow will be seen and mimicked by your miniature. So speak, act, choose carefully.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6

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Posted on April 6, 2011, in Parenting and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Very, very good advice, Heather. I can only endorse it wholeheartedly. In fact, except for “buy them a dog” (and I entirely agree with that too), you could easily be quoting from my own manuscript. (For example, it tells how, when our kids were young, our TV went on the fritz. My wife said she felt God didn’t want us to buy another one, so we didn’t have one for a number of years. Instead, she gave them her time – music, games, crafts, and many other activities. That made a tremendous difference in their personalities and attitudes as they grew.)

    Btw, as you know, my contrib to your “guest blogs” last month was on ministering to the kids in our neighborhood – including feeding many of them breakfast before the school bus comes. My son Bill got an unexpected lesson from that earlier this week. We hadn’t been able to serve breakfast for a week or so – first he was sick, then his sister accidentally amputated the tip of her middle finger (opening a can of beans) and couldn’t help, then my wife got sick with Bill’s bug. But Bill noticed that one of the kids, in particular, looked really disappointed. So he went around the group, one by one, and asked how many of them would get any breakfast if they didn’t eat it here. About half the kids (including that boy) got NO breakfast at home. One got a low-income school breakfast. The other half did eat at home, and came here mostly to visit with everyone.

    Bill was stunned. He said something like “Why?” This is America! Can’t those parents feed their own kids?” And, as he learned, for many parents the answer is “no.” Especially for the single moms. There just isn’t enough income to go around. Yet, as with us, they make just a little too much to qualify for aid programs, like Food Stamps. So the kids go hungry. There aren’t three meals a day. And it does affect the kids’ performance in school.

    It was a good, sobering lesson.

  2. I like! 🙂

  3. Maybe he initially took the job in another state because he couldn’t find anything closer…

    And even though I had plenty of experience with kids when my wife first got pregnant, I still felt very unable to comprehend what a massive task lay in front of me. I probably wouldn’t have said “I don’t have any experience with kids” but I probably did go “aaaaaaaaaah” once or twice.

    😉

    • Actually, he quit the job he did have in order to move to MI to take this one.

      Being inexperienced with caring for children is one thing. Saying it like you would rather die than be a father is another thing. ;]

      I really didn’t mean for this post to sound belittling… just a little more lighthearted than I usually tend to be on here.

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