How Dads Can Exchange One Small Word That Makes a Big Difference

Growing up, my favorite part of summer was playing on the lake. My dad taught me how to water ski as a child, and I’ve loved days on the lake ever since. My kids have grown up playing on the same lake. They get to be with their extended family, ride jet skis, and eat way too much sugar. Yet while so idyllic for a kid, I’ve ironically had some of my worst moments as a dad at the lake.

During lake days, I’m less fun and more demanding, less patient and more controlling, less of who I want to be and more of who I don’t. All to the degree that most times I drive home from lake days feeling exhausted and guilty. But why? After much research and reflection, I think it comes down to a father’s words. There’s just one small word we need to change. Here’s what it is.

Change the word from to the word for.

The From My Kids Mindset

While the lake is a lot of fun for my kids, it is a lot of work for me. From finicky watercrafts, to equal jet ski time-management, to the tension of being a fun dad and a safe dad at the same time, it’s a lot. I feel a self-imposed pressure to make sure my kids are making the world’s most excellent memories created by the world’s most excellent dad. And there are only four people who can tell me if I have succeeded: my kids.

On lake days, I want from my kids this huge, unrealistic response of gratitude and acknowledgment of how much time and effort a magical lake day takes me. Lake days are extra for me, and I want from them an extra amount of respect, gratitude, and perspective. With that mindset, no wonder I drive home feeling exhausted and guilty. Just writing those words makes me feel exhausted and guilty. But changing a father’s words here makes a big impact.

The For My Kids Mindset

At the same time, I think I need to give myself a break over the lake. It is extra work. I am justifiably concerned for my kids’ safety, and being on high alert is exhausting. I also want to teach my kids to be grateful. But more than anything on lake days, I want something for my kids. I want for them to have great family memories. I want for them to see me model how to manage many things with a good attitude. I want for them to see that adults can work and have fun. Instead of experiencing a dad who is looking for something from them, our kids need a dad who lovingly wants something for them. I want for them to feel so loved by their dad. Those are a father’s words worth using.

Sound off: How can dads make sure they are doing things for their kids versus trying to get something from their kids?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “When do you like being around me the most?”