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For several countries around the world, Father’s Day is in June. Regardless of when and how fatherhood is celebrated where you are, here are some personal advice from fathers in our community that I hope will help current and would-be fathers, and change the perception of what Dad’s care about.

As a father of two children, I consider parenthood one of the most challenging and rewarding responsibilities I have in my life. I know many in our community who are parents (or soon-to-be parents), agree that being responsible for the health and well-being of another person means committing ourselves to doing whatever it takes to create the brightest future possible for our kids. Here’s where it gets tricky! How does a parent follow the ‘prime directive’ (not interfering with their natural development), but still give a child all the resources affordable so he/she can be successful?

I say “tricky” and not “impossible,” because I believe it is possible AND necessary for a parent to play an active role AND leave it to the child to find their way in life. Here’s how I think you can do it over time:

Ask instead of tell

Over the years, I’ve shared with this community some lessons I learned about fatherhood, such as adopting a coaching mindset and guiding my children with questions instead of telling them the solution. This requires patience and trust that my children will eventually understand what is expected of them. Please don’t overdo the questions though. (I’ve been told it gets annoying.) When your child starts asking you back “What’s next?” it’s time to move on to the next thing.

Stay relevant

Staying relevant for the sake of our career is important, and it’s even more important for a healthy relationship with your children. Relevance means you matter to your kids, and they are connected to you in some way that they care about. To be relevant, we need to pay attention – watch what gets them excited; listen to what they talk about. I’ve moved from Minecraft to Pokémon to Adidas Ultra Boost, and I’m still a step behind. Luckily, I can take cues from my wife who is the best at staying relevant with my kids. When I pay attention, I can also see my kids wanting to stay relevant with me.

Empathize

Throughout my life, I flip-flopped between wanting to be just like my Dad, and not wanting to be like him. I know it’s part of my development life cycle, dealing with bias, gaining perspective and learning about what is important to me in each instance and stage of life. As my appreciation of my own Dad grew, this reflection made me more patient and understanding of my own children. I’ll be OK when they have the same shifting feelings towards me as they find their own ways in life. It takes effort and imagination to empathize with your child, and it’s worth it.

 

I often hear parents describe their children as “independent, resilient, and strong.” If you think this is an exaggeration, think back to the time when you held your newborn child in the palm of your hands. They have already come a long way, and they will get there with you by their side.

Below are some simple yet immutable tips from fellow fathers from our community. There is much wisdom, truth and humour in their words for future, new and older dad and grand-dads to still benefit from, and I would like to thank each of them for sharing.

 

Vijay Vijayasankar‘s story (USA)

My kiddo is going to eighth grade when her school reopens after summer break. When she was in first grade, she wrote this in her journal and it inspires me even today.

We used to have a little strategy that helped me stay sharp on programming skills. We would stay up late – and she will make up requirements about video games, and I would code it in the new language I want to learn. Worked like a charm – I learned JavaScript and MongoDB that way!

I did return the favor. I got her interested in code as well . We started with Scratch from MIT. And now she is learning Python – all from an online class run by Wize academy. My value-add these days is to help her think through alternate ways to solve a problem , and help her learn how to debug.

My aim is really not to make her a great programmer – I want to try and help her become a great problem solver. And in return I hope to be able to geek out with her any time we stay up late with hot chocolate.

 

Chris Kernaghan‘s tips (Ireland)

  1. Get your kids’ events in your calendar early and make sure you do your best to protect those events. You don’t get them back
  2. When I leave the house to travel before the kids are awake, I record each a short video message and upload as an unlisted video to YouTube. I then send the link to my wife or Childminder so the kids can watch
  3. Buy some of the same books as your child has on your Kindle, this way you can video call and read them a story while you are travelling
  4. Only promise to bring your kids something home from places you are visiting for the first time. Otherwise you’re going to spend a lot of money.
  5. Babies are very good at listening to you talk about architectural problems in systems – although they take really bad minutes and draw poor diagrams
  6. Do activities with your children – not as a parent but as an active participant. I do science experiments with my children, my wife cooks with my eldest daughter – teaching her things like knife skills.

 

James Wood‘s tips (USA)

  1. Even when there isn’t time in the day, you have to try to make time for your kids.
  2. Try to look out for new adventures for your kids – especially those that take your kids out of their comfort zones.
  3. It’s a Dad’s job to tell stupid Dad jokes and embarrass your kids.

 

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!

Do you have a #DadAdvice to share? Or anything you want to add? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

 

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  1. Matt Fraser

    Jason, and Vijay, and Chris, and James,

    This is all great advice! I had very little to do with my daughter’s life until she turned 10; I didn’t even know what her home address was, or what city she lived in, only that she was out there somewhere. Then when she was 10 she went looking for me — and found me (on Facebook, of all places, so don’t dis the platform too much!). Since then, we’ve managed to get together for dinner and a movie almost every week, and she’s now on the verge of turning 20. And she still likes hanging out with me! Wow!

    Last night we had a discussion about choices that are currently in front of her about college and life, and I admit, I wasn’t thrilled with the direction she wanted to go. I laid out my reasons, gave her my advice, but also said in the end it was her choice — her life. I asked her to sleep on it, and call me in the morning before making a big decision. This morning she did indeed contact me, and she elected to stick with her choice, rather than the advice I gave her. She was worried about what I would think, that I would think her reasons were silly, but I said no, I respected her choice. Again, her life, and she is the one living it, not me.

    I can’t pretend to be that great of a dad. I’ve been absentee more than not. I’ve accepted that she isn’t going to choose to do almost any of the things that I thought would be great for her, but that she will, in the end, find her own way. I only hope that I’ve managed to provide her with some of the tools to do that.

    Cheers,
    Matt

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    1. Jason Cao Post author

      Thank you for sharing this amazing personal story with us Matt! What a great example of doing what you can to help, and letting your daughter take ownership for her own goal. She is courageous and you have her trust.

      I realize Father’s Day means something different for each of us. For some, it is a day to celebrate and appreciate the time, attention and role modelling our fathers have given, whether they are still with us or not. For others, it is a reminder of the responsibility we have before us, and how we can improve.

      There’s always room for improvement and never enough time to make up for missed events. Let me ask you (and other Dads out there) a question I ask myself, “How proud are you of your daughter?”

       

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      1. Matt Fraser

        How proud am I of her? Of course, with any parent, there’s a pat answer we give to that, which is that of course we’re always proud of our kids! But at a deeper level, I truly am proud of her. No, she’s not “better” than others, she’s not exceptionally gifted as an academic or athlete, she makes all the usual teenager mistakes, etc etc. That’s not what it’s about.

        What it’s about is that at the end of the day she was indeed courageous enough to stand up for her choice. Furthermore, she doubled down on courage by being willing to talk openly with me on some very sensitive subjects, things that many people, especially at that age, would simply bottle up inside. Her ability to do that amazes me — it’s not something I would be comfortable doing, even now, and certainly not then — and it is because of this I know she is going to be just fine. Her success in life may not follow the typical path, but it will be success nonetheless. More than that, she has grown into, and continues to grow into, a kind and generous person, the sort of person who will definitely leave the place brighter and nicer than she found it.

        I don’t really think I had much to do with that. She found that within herself.

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  2. Sergio Guerrero

    great blog Jason…. I enjoyed reading the other dad’s advise as well. Matt’s story is very touching. Most of us dad’s always want the best for our kids.

    I wish all the dad’s to have a great day on sunday. I will be enjoying it watching the FIFA world cup and also bowling with my father-in-law.

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  3. Daniel Tapia-Nosedal

    Thanks for sharing  Jason! Indeed it’s tough to balance time demands from work and family, but I believe that one of the keys to it is to be successful at making those few moments with your kids really matter. As my kid just told me “you don’t have to be near me because you’re always with me”.

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    1. Jason Cao Post author

      Wow, what a special and loving child you have, Daniel! I’m sure you were moved hearing this from your child. Yes, those moment with our kids are indeed special! Society is changing and so are the ways we spend time together. The advice to be “present” and to dedicate our attention to people we are with is always going to be important – how we do this is up to us and the people we’re with. Sometimes, my kids just want me to sit with them and play my own games while they are playing theirs – no questions, no conversations needed.

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  4. Ashish Bhati

    Father’s day is gone but never too late to read, write and share good stuff.

    Thanks for sharing this Jason; I moved with the readings from other fathers and the way they treat and work with their kids to grow a healthy lifestyle. Amazing.
    From my childhood and until now, I have learned one thing, which I will share to my kids later when they grow up. That is – “Never compare your kids with others” and “never underestimate them and their capabilities” because if you do this, then they will not succeed in what they are good at and consequences might be that one day, they will start comparing you with others. Just love their activities and try to inspire them and enhance their capabilities.

    A Story to Share – One time I was on a business trip and almost in another continent, My 5 yr old son called me and said, “Dadda when will you be back?” “I said, I will be back in three weeks, and then I asked him, what you want from here”, I was sure that he might be looking for some more Lego’s, as he mostly plays with Lego all the time. However, the moment he said – “Dadda I want you, please come home. I am missing you”, I was stuck for a moment and felt so much love. And that day, my son’s wordings made the father day to me. I learned that sometimes even toys failed in front of Dad’s love and affection.

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    1. Jason Cao Post author

      Hi Ashish Bhati ! Thanks for reading and adding your comments, even after Father’s Day! I totally agree with the advice you share about never comparing your kids with others, and never underestimating their abilities. I can also add that we should never label our kids (such as the smart one, or the lazy one). Not only can this turn back on us, it can also limit the potential of our children to excel beyond their current capabilities, and ‘reach for the stars.’

      Thank you also for sharing your story – very touching. Those words spoken from the purest and most sincere place will melt any Dad’s heart. Hope you had a great Father’s Day!

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