Most dads want to see their kids build confidence and succeed in their lives. Research also confirms that positively involved dads have a big impact on the social, emotional, and psychological development of children.
But sometimes we get so focused on the end result that we miss how to actually get there. Especially when we’re fighting through the daily ups and downs of parenting life.
Perhaps it’s a pandemic and struggling economy, a job loss, relationship breakup, or any other personal challenge – life can weigh us down.
One thing that I’ve learned through my own personal highs and lows is that every day presents opportunities to build confidence in my kids. No matter what is happening around, there are a few simple actions I can take every day that will help them grow in confidence.
When these seven things are done consistently over time, they send a very clear message that children are loved, cared for, and believed in by their dad.
I encourage dads to find ways to apply each of these actions to every one of their kids, EVERY DAY.
1. Smile at them
Research shows that babies are responsive to human faces, and it’s through these interactions that they begin to learn and process the world around them. Even before kids can talk or make sounds, smiling faces have a significant impact on their brain development.
There is also a wealth of research validating how important smiles are for our own health. Smiling at your kids can reap rewards like “reduced stress hormone levels (like cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine), increased health and mood enhancing hormone levels (like endorphins), and lowered blood pressure.” Source: https://mellenpress.com/book/An-Empirical-Reflection-on-the-Smile/5066/
Even if smiling more was just for your kids, why not try it to help you both. It costs nothing, is easy to do, and benefits everyone.
2. Look them in the eye
It’s been said the eyes are the window into our souls. As our children grow, eye contact and visually affirming them is so important.
When we look at our children we are communicating on a much deeper level, and it has the ability to get their attention more, help build connection, acknowledge and express our love to them, in addition to simply “seeing” our kids.
As one article summed it up:
“Your children will be affected in a profound way by how you look at them. What they see in your eyes can be so much more powerful than what you are saying.”
3. Listen to them
I’ve written several blogs about communication and connecting. The simple power of putting away all distractions, focusing on your kids and actually listening to them is so important.
But I get that it can also be challenging.
I have 7-year-old twins and a 4-year-old. Sometimes I have no idea what they are trying to say, and I get frustrated listening to the same thing repeated over and over again, or the nonsense that often comes out as they try to communicate. But in these daily moments I always have a choice, and I’m doing my best to listen attentively when I can (while smiling at them and looking them in the eyes). And I will keep trying because I want them to know that as they grow, dad will always listen to what they have to share.
4. Say their name affectionately
This is another challenging one. When in the trenches of parenting, working from home, dealing with other life stress – sometimes I just want the toys picked up! And I’m not likely saying their names affectionately when it’s the hundredth time I’ve asked them today…
So what to do? It takes making another conscious choice on a daily basis. One thing I try to do is start every day with some form of positive greeting, and use their name. How can you find ways to say their name with affection and caring? I encourage you dads, make note of how often you’re saying your kids name in an affectionate way vs not. And do what you can to keep it weighted on the positive side.
5. Provide appropriate physical affection
“Research over the past decade highlights the link between affection in childhood and health and happiness in the future”
The article referenced above goes on to show the volumes of research, and shares practical ways to apply this to family life.
For us – it’s simply hugs. For others, it might be a pat on the head, or a hand on the shoulder, or even a high five. No matter what it is, the fact is kids need physical affection from you dad. Find ways to make it a regular part of your daily routine.
6. Look for and tell them about their strengths
One of the actions I distinctly remember growing up was hearing my mom tell me I was good at something. I wrote specifically about her focus on affirming my strengths here.
Kids look up to their parents and want to please them. When dads look for strengths in their kids and talk about them, you’re helping them develop a picture of themselves. You’re shaping their identity, and giving them the words, phrases, and actions that validate them as people of value.
7. Tell them you love them
In my work with dads, I’m always surprised at how many never heard the words “I love you” from their fathers. And I think, how tragic. Because there is no doubt their father loved them, but the message of that love was never verbalized, these same men struggle to believe they were loved. And their identity and confidence as men has suffered as a result, unless they had other positive influences in their lives to counteract those negative effects.
Don’t let this be your child’s experience as they grow up! Every day, leave no doubt in your kids’ mind. Tell them you love them, and make it obvious with your actions.
About The Author – Drew Soleyn
I’m the Director of Dad Central Ontario, Founder of Connected Dads, and a Career Coach at the Queen's Smith School of Business. As an ICF and Maxwell Leadership certified Coach, Trainer & Speaker, I help struggling dads show up at their best for the people who matter most.