How to Focus on the Macro So You Can Dad Better in the Micro

My phone recently did that magical thing of creating an unsolicited slideshow. This time, it was a highlight video of the year. Watching it, I thought, “Wow, overall, all our kids are doing really good.” And as someone who has been a dad since 2000, when my kids are doing good, I’m doing good.

But why did it take an iPhone app for me to see how my kids were doing big picture? Granted, I don’t capture the tough moments for prosperity’s sake, unless it’s my kids getting their wisdom teeth taken out. Then it’s game on. But in the end, it’s not my phone’s job to make sure I’m seeing the big picture view of my kids; it’s mine. Here’s why macro parenting is so important and how to avoid micro parenting.

Why is macro parenting important?

Parenting is tough. Just when we think we understand our kids, they go and surprise us. If you are like me, you can feel blindsided when your kid does something unexpected. You get a call from a teacher that your typically very kind son has treated another kid unkindly. What?! Your extroverted daughter says she doesn’t want to go to her best friend’s sleepover. What?! Your high school senior announces he will take a gap year every year… for the next 5 years. What?! When our kids surprise or disappoint us, it can knock us off our dad game. We second guess ourselves. We second-guess our kids. As dads, it is easy to let one moment block the view of the bigger picture.

How do we avoid micro parenting?

See the bigger picture.

Looking at our child’s behavior through a big-picture lens gives us a more complete understanding of how things are really going. If you make an uncommon mistake at work, don’t you hope your boss looks at your performance through a big picture lens? Don’t our kids need the same from us even more?

Ask better questions.

When we look at the bigger picture, we ask better questions. Based on the examples above, wouldn’t a big-picture view lead to better responses? What caused my son to be unkind? Have I or other adults seen him be unkind in other situations, or was this a one-time thing? Has he seen something that communicated that being unkind was OK? Why doesn’t my daughter want to go to her best friend’s sleepover? Did something happen at the last sleepover that made her uncomfortable? Why does my senior in high school want multiple gap years? Does he feel lost or insecure, or does he just want to have fun before he must start adulting? Asking macro questions helps us to see trends that better inform our responses. We can support our kids better in the moment when we don’t allow a single moment to define our kids.

Celebrate the wins.

Thinking about what you want for your kid big picture creates awareness of what to celebrate. If you hope your children grow up to be hard workers, and you see them working hard at school, you celebrate. If you hope your children stay close as adults, when you see them laughing and playing together, you celebrate. If you hope your child is kind to others, and you see him be kind to his friends, you celebrate. What is rewarded is repeated.

Sound off: How has parenting from a macro perspective helped you as a dad?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s been the biggest win of your life so far?”