By Dan Coulter
I think a lot of dads are getting better.
I see more and more who are taking a larger role in their children's lives, especially sons and daughters with special needs. Fewer dads who bury themselves in work and tell themselves that their contribution is to make a living for the family. More dads who share helping with homework and school meetings and doctor visits with moms.
Of course, there have always been great dads. Some have been full partners in raising kids. Some dads are raising kids alone and doing an incredible job. But many of us, myself included, have had to upgrade our concept of a dad’s responsibilities. Especially those of us who had very traditional “Dad Version 1.0” role models.
It can be a rocky transition to “Dad 2.0.” When you take on a new role, it’s like starting a new job. You don’t know all the ropes and you can make mistakes. If you’re used to excelling at your previous jobs, it can be frustrating to make what seem like bone-headed parenting bloopers.
But it’s all part of the process. It helps to remind yourself that nobody gets it perfect. Babe Ruth’s baseball career batting average was .342. Hank Aaron’s was .305. Two of the most celebrated sluggers who ever played the game succeeded in hitting the ball less than half the times they came to bat.
To take the baseball analogy a little further, it’s always a good idea to do some scouting. Observe your kids. Figure out what motivates them and use what you learn to make the time you spend with them a better experience for everyone. If you need help, Moms usually make great scouts. You can get probably get all sorts of positive information from a mom about your kids if you just ask. You might also take some batting practice. Think through what you’re going to say to your kids before you say it and consider how they might react.
A while back, my wife and I made two videos to help siblings understand their brothers and sisters who have Asperger Syndrome or autism. Some of the dads we interviewed for these programs are real Dad 2.0 role models.
One talks about a support group he's started for fathers of kids who have Asperger Syndrome.
A compassionate step-father describes working hard to help his neurotypical step-daughter understand that the family sometimes can't give her what she wants because they're committing resources toward giving their autistic daughter what she needs.
A dad whose autistic son has severe meltdowns explains how he tries to see things from his son's point of view to give him insights to help calm things down.
A father who describes his wife as "the main caregiver" urges dads to give mom a regular night out with her friends by staying home and spending “daddy time” with the kids. He also recommends not being afraid to try things that haven’t worked in the past, noting that his autistic son has now learned to behave in restaurants after a long period when the family had just stopped eating out.
A dad with both autistic and neurotypical sons advises, “You have to live in the present and pray for the future…you have to live life to the fullest like anyone else. You cannot allow autism to lock you up in a box.”
Showing our kids we care and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones is all part of being a good dad, especially if you have kids with special needs. It’s a way to ensure you don’t miss any “Dad 2.0.1” or “Dad 2.0.2” updates, and prepare to be absolutely compatible with that major “Dad 3.0” upgrade that’s bound to come.
The best news is, Dad code advances can fit you and your kids like a glove, because you get to write them yourself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Dan Coulter is the author of the videos, “Asperger Syndrome for Dads,” "Understanding Brothers and Sisters with Asperger Syndrome," and "Understanding Brothers and Sisters on the Autism Spectrum." You can find more information and articles on his website at coultervideo.com.
Copyright 2007 Dan Coulter (Revised 2014) All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.