DAD Guidelines

“To me, fatherhood meant a man had made it in life.”

Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights
Being a dad is hard, but I still recommend it!

As a father, I made it! I’ve got two young happy boys (Zac (2.5 year old) and Archer (1 year old)). Ok what do I do next? The thing is that most people don’t tell you what to do after you made it.

What I can tell you is that being a dad is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. They cry, pee, poop, eat, sleep, need to be held, and need your attention. Sometimes in that order, sometimes randomized, and sometimes all at the same time! Plus, they don’t even help pay for rent.

Being a dad tops medical school, residency, and fellowship. You are literally on call 24/7. You are expected to give 100% effort, all the time.

In medicine, I’m used to having guidelines on how to treat different diseases. Care for the most common diseases usually have national guidelines that everyone goes by. You have pneumonia, I know exactly what to do. Heart attack, American College of Cardiology has got me covered. Even cancer, (my specialty) had guidelines on what chemotherapy to give. That’s why they call it the standard of care.

There are no guidelines on how to raise kids

I needed help. I did not have many friends who were parents. Online google searches would just confuse me. I’d often get sucked into the clickbait without any substance. I wanted substance, so I needed a book. Since no one goes to the library anymore, I did the next best thing – Amazon!

I typed into the Amazon search bar, “parent books.”

I came across this gem, The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies.

To say that this was one of the most influential books I’ve read is an understatement.

What is the Montessori method?

Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician from the 1900s, developed a philosophy of education on teaching children called The Montessori Method.

Dr. Montessori’s method challenged the traditional method of teaching

Traditional education involves teachers directly teaching children. This included primary instruction and external discipline. Children are passive learners through primary instruction. External discipline included reprimands from the teacher and the dreaded timeout.

Montessori method placed more emphasis on the child. Children are cultivated with the desire to learn. They are encouraged to ask questions. Environment plays a big role in developing internal discipline. Changing the environment promotes self discipline. Creating things such as yes spaces and worlds for kids to explore are roles for the adult teacher.

The thinking of the Montessori Method excited me

Instead of doing all the work, I can make my kids do the work. I can sit back and enjoy my kids grow to be the wonderful people they are.

So, if you’re like me and need some help on raising your kids, here are my favorite tips from The Montessori Toddler

Teach the basics, first

Show by example. Show first, talk later. It’s better to show new actions like drawing slowly without saying anything. Toddlers are still trying to process thoughts, so overwhelming actions and words may be too much. An acronym I read in The Montessori Toddler was “SHOW.” “SHOW” stands for Slow Hands, Omit Words. So keep it slow and quiet.

Have age-appropriate expectations and be prepared

I would take blank sheets of paper and draw with Zac. He’s a toddler and is still learning to draw. So I would draw only lines and squiggles. The thought is if we show them something too difficult like drawing a car or house, they might not even try at all. Of note, I can’t even draw a car or house.

Cultivate the desire to learn instead of dumping facts

When Zac started talking more, I’d always ask him to tell me about what he sees. I’d keep asking him why he liked certain things. The point is to encourage curiosity. With enough questions, he learns to question everything – even his dad.

Toddlers are always testing you, so keep limits consistent

Use positive language instead of negative language. Give information. Say “Yes, you can do this” instead telling your kids “No, you can’t.” Kids learn from you. So if your kids are saying no a lot, you need to adjust your language. So instead of saying “Zac, stop pushing your baby brother!” say “Zac, we are gentle with babies.”

Change the environment, not the child

If your kids love climbing on furniture (or you), create obstacle courses for the kids to climb. Sometimes, I would be sitting in the living room and Archer and Zac would just climb me for no reason. By creating a pillow fort, I was able to rest in peace as they played in the fort. I forgot how much I loved making pillow forts as a kid until I made a fort for my kids.

Use one word commands

Using one word commands allow kids time to process ideas . My favorite command is “Shoes!” Every time before we go out Zac has a habit of sprinting out the house. By yelling “Shoes!” he stops and puts his shoes on. Sometimes the most simple idea is the best idea.

Always ask the kids to help out

Kids love to be part of the family. So why deny them? At the supermarket, Zac, Archer and I chase their mother around as she picks out groceries. Once we catch her, she hands them a grocery item. Then the kids would throw the groceries in our cart. Every time they make it in, I’d comment with “goal!” or “slam dunk!” It makes grocery shopping fun, although we are quite loud!

Be present

Toddlers are focused on the moment. They are present all the time. By spending time with them, we learn how to be present. So the best gift we can give them is to be present with them as well. I practice this by focusing on my breath while Zac and Archer are climbing on me. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat.

Summary

These were my favorite tips from The Montessori Toddler. Remember, they are still kids so we need to show them how to do things at the easiest level. Teach less. Cultivate their desire to learn. Keep limits consistent. Creatively change the environment for fun. Kids love being part of the family, so let them be. Always be present with them. And most importantly, kids need time with you.

“A French journalist who was writing a piece about my book Trust Me, I’m Lying once told me that love is best spelled T-I-M-E. I don’t think I’ve heard anything truer or more important in my role as a husband or father.”

Ryan Holiday, 33 Things I Stole From People Smarter Than Me

Spending time, any time, is better than no time. Leave work at work and be home with your kids. Take them to the grocery. Go out for a walk. Or even just let them follow you around the house. Kids grow up faster than you think, so make the most of it now before it’s too late.

What do you think? Do you have any other Montessori tips to share?

One thought on “DAD Guidelines

  1. marymtf says:

    Lovely post, doctor Mike. Beautiful children. . Something you need to know that those self help books may not tell you. You can be retired (then reactivated for grandpa duty one day) but not fired. When you’re a dad it’s for life.

    Like

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