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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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  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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