“The Best Dad Ever!"

“The Best Dad Ever!”

Linda Silverman, Ph.D.
 
 
Happy Father’s Day! Last month was Mom’s Month. This month we pay tribute to the phenomenal role Dads play in the development of their children. In the early years, most of the families we worked with had clearly defined roles. Dad was the breadwinner and Mom was in charge of childcare, including the child’s education. Most of our calls were from mothers. Fathers usually had to be convinced that it was worth the money to have their child tested.
 
The world has changed a great deal in the last 40 years. I’m proud that my husband and I were forerunners of that change. In 1972, when we moved to Colorado, we initiated a role reversal. I took a position as Co-Director of Special Education at the University of Colorado and Hilton became a stay-at-home Dad. He took on all the emotional as well as physical responsibilities of being the major caretaker. I have to confess, he was better at it than I was. I was work-focused. He was relationship-focused. Our kids were 7 and 8. Lots of amusing stories I could tell about those years. The world wasn’t quite ready for us to challenge the entrenched gender roles. 
 
Today, gender is more fluid and so are gender roles. Parenting is a shared responsibility. When you ask little girls what they want to be when they grow up, they don’t automatically say, “a Mommy.” They share their dreams of being doctors, astronauts, changing the world. And boys are thinking about their future role as fathers. Saturday, I interviewed Kevin Subach and his sons, Bennett and Hudson. Bennett said to his Dad, “Thank you for raising us the way you did. I am learning from you how to be a parent.” And Hudson said, “He’s the Best Dad ever!”
 
Last fall, I needed help with the leaves, so I put an ad in our Nextdoor Legacy Ridge for a smart, reliable teenager in the neighborhood. Kevin answered my ad, bringing over his 12- and 14-year-old sons. I instantly knew I wanted to hire these boys. They were well-mannered and eager to be of service. And I could tell that they were smart. It’s been a joy to watch them take over more and more responsibilities, with Kevin giving them the tools and teaching them how to use them. Then he would leave and trust them to do the work on their own. From the beginning, I was fascinated watching how the boys worked so well together without fighting. What kind of parenting led to these remarkable results?  My curiosity led to this interview. When I approached Kevin about the article, he immediately responded, “You should ask Hudson and Bennett.” Good idea!
 
My first question to the boys was, “What makes him a good Dad?” 
 
Bennett responded, “After 15 years you really get to know someone. He gives you enough freedom, as long as you don’t cross that line. He’s lenient, but strict when he needs to be. When you have to get work done, you definitely get it done. Work first. Play later. Those are the priorities. He’s not a helicopter parent.”
 
Hudson added, “He’s got a good sense of humor. He has great parenting skills. He sets a good example. He helps me with my homework.” Several times the boys mentioned that their Dad teaches by example.
 
I was particularly interested in how Kevin had instilled a strong work ethic in his sons. Bennett said that his Dad uses the Boy Scouts’ EDGE method to teach them skills: Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, Enable.* He teaches them how to use tools, demonstrates safe handling of the tools, guides them as they practice, and then he takes the training wheels off, and lets them have the freedom to use the tools independently in their own situations. Bennett left today for a week of leadership training with the Boy Scouts.
 
I was also curious about how they resolve conflicts. Most of the time, they are “self-resolving.” The boys said they don’t really fight, but they have arguments. Kevin usually lets them work through it themselves. He doesn’t always get involved. He likes to stay out of it. When they come to him, he does not take sides. He tries to get to the bottom of the disagreement. “What is the reason for this argument?” He wants each of them to understand the other person’s point of view. He helps them compromise and find a middle ground. Most important, he really listens. Bennett summarized, “He’s a mediator. That’s the best way to do it.” The boys don’t stay mad long. They apologize to each other.
 
Where did Kevin learn to parent? Kevin said that his parents and grandparents were very hard workers and he learned from them. His grandfather worked in a tool and die plant—a blue collar worker. “He was a great guy.” His grandmother worked hard, too, as a nutritionist at a hospital. During the early years, his mom was a stay-at-home mom but then went back to work to help put Kevin and his brother through school. His father started in the automotive industry in Detroit working on Ford tractors and went to school at night to learn management skills. He progressed through the company with hard work. He was highly respected. From the values in his family Kevin learned a strong work ethic. “I feel a sense of accomplishment when I do a hard day’s work.” He gets frustrated when he sees a lack of work ethic in others. Like Kevin, his Dad provided great support to both of his sons. “He let me pursue whatever sport or activity I wanted to do but didn’t push me.” Kevin attributes his parenting skills to his father. “Dad was present. He’s a good friend. I look to him still for advice.”
 
The most endearing part of the interview was the genuine respect Kevin had for his sons. He has recently set up a home wi-fi network and he likes to fix things. He invites the boys to help him. “I ask them, ‘What do you think?’ They have good ideas. We solve problems together.”
 
Kevin spends a lot of time hanging out with his sons. They take walks, go fishing, bowl, ice skate, ski, do white-water rafting, go out to dinner, go to Rockies games, go to concerts, do motor cross racing, travel to Florida to visit Kevin’s family. Bennett says that they are “like-minded; on the same path.” It was clear that these boys and their father enjoy each other.
 
Last of all, I asked what they think Dads need to do to create healthy relationships with their children. Kevin said, “It is important to spend time with your children. In the big scheme of things, your children are more important than your job or your hobbies—especially early on, in the influential years. Just talk with them at the same level. Don’t talk down to them. Listen to your kids. Don’t dismiss what they have to say.”
 
Hats off this Father’s Day to all the wonderful Dads who take time to just BE with their children and who support their dreams. We celebrate you. 
 
*EDGE:
 
Explain
First explain what you will be doing. Tell them the steps involved. Visual aids might be helpful for this step. Use questions to gauge their understanding.
 
Demonstrate
Show them how to do the skill. Demonstrate the steps using the actual materials. Describe what you are doing.
 
Guide
Let them practice the skill. Guide and coach them as they try to do it themselves. This step will take the most time.
 
Enable
Enable them by letting them do the skill themselves without any intervention.