As one of the more experienced first-time dads, I felt fairly comfortable embracing the role of fatherhood. After all, I helped raise my baby brother, who’s 17 years younger, and pitched in quite a bit with helping raise my nephew. What I failed to realize was that I only knew how to perform the essential, basic tasks. I realized quickly how little I knew about what really goes into shaping a human.
Changing diapers, feeding, burping, etc. are but a small part of raising a child, and on my first go around as a full-time parent, even I was in for a shock. Reflecting on the tumultuous first few years of parenthood, I would like to share three lessons that I learned in compromise, consistency, and compassion.
Lesson 1: Encourage your children but allow room for their input.
Sure, you may be the adult and have all the power, but a child has all the time in the world to conspire against you. Embracing and incorporating the desires of your kids into your daily regimen can be the difference between the Battle of Waterloo and smooth sailing. It also encourages autonomy and initiative. Case in point are our recent efforts at potty training, while R embraced it, L resisted.
After multiple accidents on the couch, floor, and any other surface you can think of, we decided to postpone L’s training while we focused on R. About a month and a half later, R had the potty training down, and L seemed interested in following her sister’s lead. The second go around with potty training for L took all of two days! The speed with which she was able to learn was incredible, and the only difference was her parents being patient with her.
Read more about our potty training escapades in The Poopocalypse.
Lesson 2: Consistency is key!
It took me some time to get on board with my wife’s mantra of “only introduce rules you can consistently enforce,” but after seeing how effective introducing a couple of new rules at a time is, I am a believer.
Teaching our kids propriety in chunks instead of in bulk has allowed them to adjust their behaviors much quicker than I ever thought possible. With both of us having backgrounds in psychology, my wife and I discuss the latest initiatives constantly. It allows us to prioritize training, offer support, and yield results in half the time. Once our little ones adjust to new rules and form a habit, we are free to introduce the next stage of training.
Lesson 3: Even well-intentioned actions have consequences.
As a parent of twins, I quickly learned to think of the repercussions of even the mildest of acts. For instance, when the girls are under the weather or are upset about something, I often sit and pat them on the back while telling them, “It’s ok.” The patting is often paired with a bounce on my knee to create a rhythmic distraction from their troubles.
Little did I know how much a simple act of comfort could lead to a somewhat aggressive emulation. Soon, anytime either of the girls was upset, the other would approach and mimic Papa’s patting on the back while whispering “S’okay.” However in their effort to comfort one another, the girls would often wind up as if pitching for the World Series. This ended in a very audible wap wap wap. The ferocity of their pats would often agitate the other, only further driving the already upset twin into hysterics.
I quickly realized it is very difficult to teach mindfulness to a set of two-year olds, and that no matter how well intentioned they are, kids will often find a way to take things to the extreme as they test boundaries. Thankfully we were able to teach the girls the concept of gentleness rather quickly, sometimes offering multiple reminders as they sought to pacify their other half. This experience definitely keeps me thoughtful of how the kiddos will interpret my actions.
I hope you enjoyed these tips! Please comment any important lessons you’ve also found to be essential.