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Last weekend my son Justin married his beautiful bride Brandy. It was an extraordinary event. What made it truly special was having the honor of officiating their exchange of vows. That’s right. My son and daughter-in-law asked me to perform the wedding ceremony.
If extending me the privilege of marrying them was enough, Justin expressed this sentiment, “Everything it takes to become a man I learned from you. I love you, dad.”
In those two statements, he gave me what most dads want but won’t admit. I’ll get to that in a moment.
Generally speaking, dads don’t have a problem telling their kids what they want. “Respect your elders. Listen to your parents. Act responsibly. Obey the law. Do your chores. Get good grades.”
Most dads take the responsibility of parenting seriously. While not perfect, they do their best. They want their kids to succeed in life. Why? Because dads care about their family. You may not hear them say it, but it’s true.
So, on the surface its fairly easy to know what dads want from their kids. Yet below the surface, dads have deeper needs they don’t express.
Deep down inside, most dads want two things from their kids but will never admit.
#1: Dads want assurance they are having a positive influence
Many parents worry if they are screwing up their kids. Dads are no exception. We try to influence our kids with our words and how we act in the world. Our goal is to set a positive example. We’re not sure if we always get it right or if we are getting through to our kids.
I know I wasn’t a perfect dad although I did my best to be a steady influence in my kids’ life. This was especially important many years ago when I went through divorce. I was so concerned about the negative impact it would have on my children. Throughout the years I strived to be a constant presence while also being consistent in what I modeled for them.
When my son told me how much I influenced his manhood in a good way it touched my core. It was a message of assurance that he got what I was trying to teach him. I savored his words for days.
Dad, if you want to maintain a positive influence for your kids make sure your words and actions align. Practice what you preach. Share not only what’s in your head but what’s in your heart too.
[Tweet “Dad, if you want to be a positive influence share what’s in your head AND your heart.”]
Want a gift idea for dad that won’t cost you a penny?
Find a way to communicate to your dad that you admire what he brings to your life. It can be a homemade card, a letter, or a conversation. He may not be perfect, but he does care about you and wants you to be happy and succeed in life. Dads need this assurance but won’t admit it.
#2: Dads want affection
Generally speaking, boys are raised from an early age to avoid softer emotions. We are being prepped for manhood, to be providers and protectors of our families. Adult men tend to be task-oriented and less tuned in to emotional stuff.
We may not show it a lot, but most dads are suckers for affection. Dads like hugs and to hear their kids say, “I love you dad.”
For daughters, this is easy. Sons can learn to do this too!
On the surface, my dad was not the affectionate type. He did not get any as a child growing up. My mom made up for that, but I could tell it didn’t come naturally for him. I have two older brothers and a sister, plus one younger brother. As my oldest brother became an adult, he started to tell my dad he loved him. I could see it had an impact on him. The rest of us followed suit.
Every time I talk with my adult kids I end with “I love you”
. They reciprocate. I also say it to my fifteen year-old grandson and he mumbles it back.
I belong to a band of brothers, a small group of guys I hang with regularly. We do life together and have each other’s back. These are deep friendships. Whenever we leave each other we hug and end conversations, verbal or text, with “I love you brother”
. It’s heartfelt affection we share as men.
Hey dad! Be sure to keep your emotional valve open. Let your family see your softer side. Look them in the eye and say “I love you”
Want a gift idea you can give every day?
Give your dad the gift of affection. Hug him. Tell him you love him every day. Most dads crave this even though they don’t admit it. Try it out. See if it has a positive effect on your relationship. I suspect it will.
Check out the podcast link above
In the podcast, my co-host Amanda Berlin
and I do a deep dive on this topic. I talk about my experiences growing up and as a father with my kids. Amanda poses questions to me like, “What advice can you give to someone whose dad is undeserving of honor?”
Check it out by clicking the link at the top of the blog.