I do a lot of coaching and much of it with men who are fathers. If I could give men just one piece of advice it would be this: advise less, listen more. As men we often feel a deep need rush in and fix things. Maybe this is genetic, but I think more likely it is tied to the need to feel useful, powerful and in control. Most men like to solve problems and help others succeed. Absolutely, nothing wrong with that.
The problem comes in when giving advice and/or solving a problem is not really the most helpful medicine. When our children are upset and just need to “be heard”, rushing in with advice is actually harmful. When we do this the message to our kids is “we didn’t really hear you” or worse “we don’t care about your feelings”. Our kids will typically either start arguing with our advice or shutdown in disappointment.
I am convinced the most skilled fathers are masters of “acknowledging and validating “ their children. We acknowledge by nodding, touching someone’s arm, paraphrasing, saying “un huh” and asking good questions. We are basically communicating that we are taking the person’s concern seriously. We validate our children by specifically referencing their feelings with statements like, “I can see how that would be upsetting” or “It makes sense that you are feeling that way”.
When we take the time to slow down and acknowledge and validate our children it is like given a cold glass of water to someone in the desert. We not only strengthen our relationship in the moment, we also strengthen it in the long term.
So, the next time your child comes to you upset, set aside the fix-it kit and simply listen with an acknowledging and validating heart. You will be happy with the results.