Happy Father’s Day

Most of this article is a reprint from last year.  I had two requests for reprints, the record by the way, and being busy, I thought it might be worth another look.  It does not take a lot to encourage me. 

There are three quotes at the end that are new.

Objectively, every day is Father’s Day. Children and eventually grandchildren are the meaning of life. Fathers get to contribute and enjoy. What could be worth more?

New fathers need to lighten up. Here’s why:

  1. There is a big difference between leader and commander. Leadership works.
  2. Try to avoid many rules. Simple standards work. Rules teach children that others control them and they need to learn how to control themselves. I did what you said is a correct but wrong answer.
  3. Besides if you have rules you need to enforce them and children have far more energy to avoid them than adults have to enforce them. Pick your battles carefully. If they don’t matter avoid them. If they matter, win.
  4. Mistakes help them. Don’t cover them up or bail them out. Leave enough that they can learn from the error. If you take responsibility for consequences they may lose track of the lesson. Do you think the American big banks learned much in 2008? Be gentle.
  5. Encouragement works. Criticism seldom does.
  6. Share your feelings. It validates theirs.
  7. Share your work. Helping you gives them a framework for how long things take to accomplish and what skills are valuable. It teaches persistence too.
  8. Keep in mind that good leaders are good followers. Learn to let your children lead sometimes.
  9. Young children behaving badly in public are normal. They are merely learning the limits. Help them learn.
  10. Nurture them. They are little experimental scientists. Explorers, learning their way in a complicated, new world. Guides are useful, but only by helping them choose the way. No demanding your way if their way and their mistakes would help them learn.
  11. Challenge them with new ways to look at common things. Of course you can wear your glasses upside down. Inside out hats are interesting. Try painting with your other hand. What if dogs could play basketball or cats could fly?
  12. Help them deal with failure. I know that hurts, but sometimes you can’t play on the slide without a slip. Life is like that too.
  13. Help them deal with unreasonable others. Some people are mean. Teach them that they don’t need to be mean too, but they do need to stand up for themselves.
  14. Protect them when they need protecting, but give them the benefit of the doubt first.
  15. When they are young, read them stories. Better still, with their assistance, make up stories. They can learn imagination or maybe more likely, they can avoid losing it.
  16. Learn to draw. Even if it is stick figures only.
  17. Two-year-olds and teenagers are not hard to get along with just to be mean. They are learning difficult limits and sometimes they go too far. It goes away.
  18. Be sure your children, especially teenagers, have enough money to allow choices. The only way to learn about money is to use it. If they have only enough to live on, they learn little about saving.
  19. You earning extra money is nice, but once the necessities are looked after, it will only buy more choices. Don’t give up much time to get extra money.
  20. Children know far more than you would think and they make better decisions than you would think. Give them a chance to use their own experience.
  21. Let them go their own way when it is safe for them to do so. That’s the hard one. Walking your daughter down the aisle is among the harder things in life. Learn to trust.

Pity you only know all this stuff after the children have grown up. Maybe there is no way to learn it until after the fact.  That is the problem with experience.  You get it right after you need it.

Fatherhood is not a burden. Fatherhood is the best. Fathers can learn from their children as much as or more than the children learn from the fathers.  Enjoy it today and every day.


“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me”  – Jim Valvano

“My father was often angry when I was most like him.” – Lillian Hellman

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” ~ Umberto Eco


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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. Contact: don@moneyfyi.com

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